Three days remain until Election Day, but Mitt Romney's campaign has suggested that Hurricane Sandy would be to blame for a possible defeat.
Citing sources within the campaign, Jan Crawford of CBS News reported Saturday that Team Romney believes the storm, which devastated parts of the East Coast last week, is responsible for putting a halt on their much-touted momentum.
For eight straight days, polls showed him picking up support. The campaign's internal polling, which is using different turnout models than most public polls, had him on solid ground in Florida, Virginia, North Carolina and Iowa. He had a slight lead or was tied in Ohio, New Hampshire and Wisconsin and was in striking distance in Pennsylvania, a state Republicans hadn't won since Ronald Reagan in 1984.
Those leads in Florida, Virginia, North Carolina and Iowa still hold in the internal polls, campaign sources say, but Romney's movement flattened out or, as the campaign likes to say, "paused." Nevada is now off the table, and those neck-and-neck swing states are even tighter.
Romney's momentum rose after the first presidential debate gave him his first significant bounce this cycle. But there has been little evidence in national and swing state polls conducted since then that the Republican presidential nominee has sustained that momentum, despite the Romney campaign's claims to the contrary.
Nonetheless, Romney's allies also began to point prematurely at the timing of Sandy. Republican strategist Karl Rove called the storm the "October Surprise" and argued it had been disadvantageous toward Romney in an interview with The Washington Post on Friday.
“If you hadn’t had the storm, there would have been more of a chance for the [Mitt] Romney campaign to talk about the deficit, the debt, the economy," Rove said. "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."
“Obama has temporarily been a bipartisan figure this week. He has been the comforter-in-chief and that helps,” he added. "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.”
While Rove acknowledged that people in the Northeast would have little influence on the outcome of the election, his larger point was that the hurricane allowed President Barack Obama to step back into his role as president, while Romney could only watch from the sidelines.
Both presidential candidates temporarily suspended their campaign events in the wake of the storm. But, as the incumbent president, it was Obama who drew the most attention in the final week before the election for his leadership in a time of crisis -- prompting effusive praise from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a top surrogate to Romney.
Putting all campaigning aside, Christie repeatedly commended Obama's outreach and support in a rare show of bipartisanship -- the kind the president has been promising to pursue if he wins a second term. Earlier on Saturday, Politico reported that the Romney campaign was frustrated by Christie's recent show of affection for Obama, another sign that they felt their candidate had been placed in a losing position on account of the storm.