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N.J. governor praises Obama

By Bloomberg News

WASHINGTON - Barack Obama drew praise from one of Republican Mitt Romney's top backers Tuesday for the government's response to the Atlantic superstorm as both candidates tried to navigate the politics of a natural disaster with the election one week away.

New Jersey Republican Chris Christie, the governor of one of the states hardest hit by Sandy, lauded Obama during interviews on morning news shows.

"I have to give the president great credit," Christie, who delivered the keynote address at Romney's nominating convention, said on the Fox News Channel. "He's done, as far as I'm concerned, a great job for New Jersey."

The furious storm left a trail of flooding, death and destruction along the East Coast and froze the presidential campaigns in place. With polls showing the race a dead heat nationally, political advisers for both Obama and Romney were struggling to assess how the massive storm might tilt the contest.

While federal agencies are taking a central role in relief and clean-up from the storm, one of Romney's central messages in the campaign is a promise to shrink the government.

Romney has suggested he would give more responsibility for disaster relief to state governments or even private companies. In a June, 2011, debate during the Republican primaries, he was asked whether some of the duties of the Federal Emergency Management Agency should be dispersed.

"Every time you have an occasion to take something from the federal government and send it back to the states, that's the right direction," Romney said. "And if you can go even further and send it back to the private sector, that's even better."

While New Jersey is a safely Democratic state in the presidential campaign, Christie's praise may resonate with voters in states that swing between the two parties in national elections.

Christie said he spoke with Obama three times in 24 hours as the storm was roaring ashore.

"He's been very attentive, and anything I've asked for, he's gotten to me," Christie said. "So I thank the president publicly for that."

Aides to both candidates were still waiting to see the storm's impact on the campaign.

"I don't have a clue what this will do," said Charlie Black, a Romney adviser. "Neither does anyone else."

While some campaign surrogates, such as former President Bill Clinton, continue to stump for the president, Obama won't be making a personal appeal for votes.

"This is the challenge of being the president and a candidate," said David Axelrod, the campaign's chief political strategist. "Being the president comes first. We as a campaign will make the adjustments as necessary and he'll do what he needs to do as president."

"Far too much credit" is placed on the impact of candidate rallies in the closing days of a campaign, Lichtman said. More important, he said, will be the storm's effect on early balloting and turnout on Election Day.

While researchers have looked at the impact of rain on the 2000 Election Day in Florida - the state that determined that year's winner - there has been nothing on the national scale of Sandy so close to an election, Lichtman said.

Bad weather tends to reduce turnout and historically that has helped Republicans, Lichtman said. With Democrats running ahead in early voting in many states, though, the storm and its aftermath "might affect the ability of Republicans to catch up," he said. "You may have very strange effects going on here. It's fascinating."


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