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Presidential race rained out even in sunny states

By Nicholas Riccardi

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 30 2012 9:46 a.m. MDT

"We had some plans today and tomorrow, going door to door. It's still going on, but not with the intensity we had, because people want to make sure their loved ones are OK," said Emerson, who has a niece in Hampton, Va.

Some weary swing state voters didn't think the political lull would mean much. "I'm sure the TV commercials aren't going to stop," said Mike Beauregard, a Republican-leaning Independent who owns a cooking utensil shop in Concord, NH.

Others were fixated on images of the storm but still saw the devastation through the prism of the election. In western Wisconsin, at the bustling student union at the University of Wisconsin in River Falls, a television tuned to cable news showed ominous images of the storm. History major Mike Engelhardt, 21, said Obama had the most on the line.

"If he bungles the beginning of the cleanup, that will move a lot of votes to Romney," Engelhardt predicted.

One place the storm may have an impact is North Carolina, where Democrats are hoping new voters who cast their ballots early will overcome the GOP's traditional Election Day advantage at the polls. Rain from the storm shuttered some early voting locations Sunday, and election officials were concerned that heavy snow in the western mountains could make it even harder to get to polling places early.

"The weather could chill participation," state election executive director Gary Bartlett said.

Democrats are counting on running up an edge in early votes in other swing states as well — ones that lie outside the storm's path but were still on the minds of Romney supporters in sunny Davenport, Iowa, where the Republican candidate made a final Monday afternoon appearance.

Tim Vath of Dubuque said he didn't think the storm would fundamentally disrupt the election. But he did worry that any bad weather now might increase the magnitude of any early-voting advantage Democrats might have.

"Perhaps it could freeze that advantage in place. I doubt it would determine the outcome in those states," said Vath. "At least, I hope not."

As Sandy rumbled past the tiny Chesapeake Bay hamlet of North, Va., William Sullivan, 76, swung by the town's main building, which holds the post office, bait shop and convenience store. Sullivan trashed two-thirds the mail stuffing his post office box, mainly glossy political brochures from both sides.

"Makes me sick to my stomach thinking of the millions of dollars these characters have spent to get elected," Sullivan said before heading back out into the rain. He doubted the dramatics surrounding the storm would change the minds of his rural neighbors. "People have their minds made up," he said.

In downtown Denver, it was sunny and in the 60s as Jeremy LeVal, a Romney supporter, waited at a bus stop. He confessed he has paid limited attention to both the campaign and the storm. He knew the hurricane was bearing down on the Northeast and hoped there was no major damage, but doubted the brief suspension of the presidential contest would matter.

"If people haven't decided at this point," LeVal said, "it probably won't make a difference."

Associated Press writers Bob Bakst in River Falls, Wis., Tom Beaumont in Davenport, Iowa, Norma Love in Concord, N.H., Stephen Ohlemacher in Washington, Todd Richmond in Waunakee, Wis., and Bob Lewis in North, Va., contributed to this report.

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