10/30/2012 01:50 pm ET Updated Dec 30, 2012

Sandy: Disadvantage Obama?

If the presidential election were more than just a week away I'd resist this, but can't help it. How does this storm affect the candidates? The President is now stuck with paying attention to politically safe states he would otherwise ignore in the final week, while Mitt Romney could safely resume campaigning in largely unaffected battleground states.

At first the conventional thinking, including mine, was that Obama benefits by dominating the news as First Responder while Romney would have to be shy about seeming inappropriate.

But now that the battleground states in Sandy's path emerged without hugely tragic consequences, I'm thinking the political fortunes are reversed.

Romney can risk returning to the few states that will decide the election (with copious empathetic references to the storm's toll) because those voters can more or less go about their normal routines, although concerned about fellow Americans in hard hit places. (Yes, voters in battleground Virginia, particularly those in the liberal leaning northern region, are dealing with power outages. But they face that in most major storms around here.)

Obama might be the one who must tread carefully. Having taken charge of the emergency and declared himself above politics for now, how can he travel to swing states without a backlash?

The worst of Sandy seems to have hit New Jersey and New York City. Voters there will certainly appreciate Obama's hyper focus on their needs. But he's already got them in his column.

Should Obama risk criticism and get back on the road? Probably not for a few days, at least. But with just a week to go that is precious time lost.

The President's best hope is that voters in mostly unharmed key states seeing him ably handle this crisis elsewhere will gain enough credit to offset the tactical disadvantage of having to suspend personal campaigning where he most needs to be.