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Joan Vennochi | the angle

Did President Obama get a boost from Sandy?

Hurricane Sandy hurt millions of Americans who still feel its pain. How much the super storm helped President Obama is a matter of debate.

Framing that political reality may be sensitive for the White House, but former President Bill Clinton seems to see it as win.

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How Obama handled “that terrible storm” is a testament to his leadership and the philosophy that guides it, Clinton told a crowd of 14,000 on Sunday in Concord, NH. “Getting off the campaign trail, putting aside politics, working with the Republican governor of New Jersey, the independent mayor of New York City, and the Democratic governors of New York and Connecticut,” said Clinton, in a joint appearance with Obama. “It was a stunning example of how ‘we’re all in this together’ is a way better philosophy than you’re on your own.’ ”

Stumping in the Granite State, Obama also referenced Sandy, saying “what we’ve seen happen in New Jersey, New York and Connecticut just breaks our hearts.”

“We will not stop” helping citizens of those states, he promised, “until their lives are rebuilt.”

Still, some Democrats bridle at Republicans who translate a natural disaster into an excuse for a Romney loss. They were particularly irked after Republican strategist Karl Rove said in an interview that Hurricane Sandy stopped Mitt Romney’s momentum.

“You can only make a claim that Sandy stopped Mitt’s momentum, if his momentum was still building at the time the storm hit,” Democratic consultant Michael Goldman emailed me. “No polling showed that to be the case. In fact, virtually every poll showed no movement in key areas for the Romney campaign for a week prior to the storm.”

After polls showed him losing some ground to Romney following the first presidential debate, Obama was either one point up or tied with Romney in national polling averages at the time Sandy struck. His backers see that as evidence that he didn’t need help from a tragedy to keep Romney at bay.

Nate Silver, the New York Time’s polling guru, just blogged that when the hurricane made landfall in New Jersey, Obama’s chances of winning re-election were 73 percent. Since then, his chances have risen to 86 percent. Silver concludes that the story and the response, “may account for some”of Obama’s gains, but it’s not the whole story. He was rebounding in the polls, bolstered by his improved performances in the final two debates and improving economic news,” said Silver.

In the storm’s aftermath, Obama received warm praise from Republican Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey, who had been a fierce critic of the president’s. Obama also got a photo op to go along with Christie’s praise. New York City Michael Bloomberg, an independent, also endorsed Obama.

According to the latest NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, 68 percent of voters approve of Obama’s handling of Hurricane Sandy and only 15 percent disapprove. The same survey gave Obama a 48 percent to 47 percent lead over Romney as they head into Election Day.

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