Rove, who served as George W. Bush's deputy White House chief of staff, said that in the wake of the storm, there are “advantages and a minor disadvantage” for the president as well as a “subtle disadvantage to Romney.”
“Obama has temporarily been a bipartisan figure this week. He has been the comforter-in-chief and that helps,” Rove said. The slight disadvantage for Obama, Rove said, “is that people in Eastern coastal communities are going to be preoccupied by issues of getting food to eat and having a roof over their heads; some of them won't be thinking as much about the election.” But he conceded that those people reside in the Northeast, and not in the battleground states most likely to decide the election.
Hurricane Sandy slammed the Northeast late Monday, prompting the president to scrap his campaign schedule through the middle of the week, in order to monitor the storm. On Wednesday, Obama traveled to New Jersey to survey storm damage with Garden State Gov. Chris Christie (R), one of Romney’s top surrogates. The president resumed his campaign schedule on Thursday.
“It’s the October surprise,” Rove said of Sandy. “For once, the October surprise was a real surprise."
Rove also opined on the relative importance of states that appear to favor Obama, but have attracted a late push from Romney and his allied groups. Pennsylvania and Minnesota are in play for Romney, Rove said. In those states, Obama has been leading in the polls, but Republicans have been surging. Romney and running mate Rep. Paul Ryan (Wis.) will campaign in Pennsylvania over the weekend.
Rove co-founded the conservative super PAC American Crossroads, which along with its affiliated non-profit Crossroads GPS has vowed to spend $300 million on the election. He said he thinks Romney will win Ohio, but can win the election even without carrying the Buckeye State – something no Republican has ever done. He also predicted a close national outcome on Tuesday.
“Nationally, it will be a point or two race,” said Rove.
Below is a transcript of the interview:
Question: Are Pennsylvania, Michigan and Michigan in play?
Rove: "I see Pennsylvania and Minnesota in play. Michigan is a little further down."
Question: There's a growing perception out there that Hurricane Sandy has had a significant effect on the race. Do you think that's accurate?
Rove: "That's absolutely true. There are advantages and a minor disadvantage to the President here -- and a subtle disadvantage to Romney. Obama has temporarily been a bipartisan figure this week. He has been the Comforter-in-Chief and that helps. [The slight disadvantage for Obama] is that people in Eastern coastal communities are going to be preoccupied by issues of getting food to eat and having a roof over their heads; some of them won't be thinking as much about the election..."
"...There's a subtle disadvantage for Romney [in the wake of the hurricane]. For a five-day period, the country stopped talking about the presidential campaign really and people were talking only of the mega-storm."
Question: In your view, has Sandy given Obama a chance to win that he otherwise wouldn't have?
Rove: "Yes. If you hadn't had the storm, there would have been more of a chance for the Romney campaign to talk about the deficit, the debt, the economy. There was a stutter in the campaign. When you have attention drawn away to somewhere else, to something else, it is not to his [Romney's] advantage."
Question: Can Romney win without winning Ohio?
Rove: "I think he's going to win Ohio. .... Yes, he can win without Ohio. ... And, nationally, it will be a point or two race."
Question: Going back to what you said earlier, it sounds like, in your judgment that Sandy has had a significant effect on this race. That is an interesting point. You think it's had a significant effect. Is that accurate?
Rove: "Yeah. It's the October surprise. For once, the October surprise was a real surprise."
Question: How does the Allen-Kaine race look to you?
Rove: "It's tight. How big Romney wins Virginia will probably determine whether [Allen] will win."
Question: What should we make of the Romney campaign trying to put Pennsylvania, Minnesota and Michigan in play? Does that betray a worry that Ohio is slipping away for Romney, as some observers believe?
Rove: "No. We are just following the strategy of the 2008 Obama campaign, when it was going to states like North Carolina, Virginia and Indiana, all of which we're going to win this year. You try to reach out. It's the same strategy they used, four years ago. But I think we're going to win Ohio."