Former Gov. Barbour: Hurricane Sandy broke Romney’s momentum

Former Gov. Haley Barbour (R-Miss.) said Sunday that Hurricane Sandy stopped Mitt Romney’s momentum in the presidential race after the candidates temporarily left the trail and the media focused on the superstorm.

“The hurricane is what broke Romney's momentum,” Barbour said on CNN’s “State of the Union.

“I don't think there's any question about it,” he added. “Any day that the news media is not talking about jobs and the economy, taxes and spending, deficit and debt, 'ObamaCare' and energy, is a good day for Barack Obama.”

Other Republican lawmakers and pundits were less forceful in their assessments of Sandy’s impact on the presidential race, but several said it likely would have some impact.

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President Obama has received a favorable reception from the public for his response to Sandy. Obama also received high praise from Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.), a prominent Romney surrogate, for his handling of the storm, and the two toured the New Jersey coastline together on Wednesday.

Former George W. Bush strategist Matthew Dowd said on ABC’s “This Week” that Christie’s embrace of Obama may have done more for the president than his response to the hurricane itself.

“You had Hurricane Sandy, and then you had the Christie bear hug, and the Christie bear hug, I actually believe, actually did more for the president in this slight movement, as I said, in his approval rating than actually even really his handling of the hurricane,” Dowd said.

Conservative columnist George Will appeared to be skeptical of a change in momentum in the race, but he said on "This Week" that if a shift did happen, it was due to Sandy.

“If there's been a momentum change, it's because of the hurricane, which may have slowed Romney's momentum,” Will said. “But I'm not sure how many Americans out there, after nine months of intensive campaigning, are paying attention to this.”

Republican strategist Karl Rove said that he thought Obama’s response to Sandy helped him initially, but suggested the images of people still waiting for power and aid days after the storm may have negated any advantages.

“It was the October surprise. It was actually a surprise, a storm hits, the president responds,” Rove said on “State of the Union.”

“I think it helped him initially, but I think it has been — whatever small advantage he gained from it is being eroded by the images that people are seeing on their television screens,” Rove said. “And look, the president again is out there campaigning as opposed to appearing to be tending to business.”

The Obama and Romney campaign themselves avoided discussing the political impact of Sandy on Sunday.

Obama senior adviser David Plouffe said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that Sandy’s impact was “irrelevant,” while Romney senior campaign adviser Ed Gillespie said “I just don’t know” when asked about it on “This Week.”