Obama Riding Hurricane Sandy Poll Bounce Into Election Day

The president's handling of Superstorm Sandy affords him biggest poll uptick since Bin Laden's killing.

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President Barack Obama embraces Donna Vanzant, an owner of the North Point Marina, during a tour of a neighborhood affected by superstorm Sandy in Brigantine, N.J.

There's fresh evidence that President Obama's rapid response to Hurricane Sandy gave him a last-minute boost before the election, although some Republicans are now saying Obama dropped the ball in the past few days.

[Ken Walsh: A Tale of Two Storms: Comparing Bush and Obama's Hurricane Response]

Sixty eight percent of voters approve of Obama's handling of Hurricane Sandy and only 15 percent disapprove, according to the latest NBC/Wall Street Journal poll. Overall, the survey gives Obama a 48 percent to 47 percent lead over Republican challenger Mitt Romney in Tuesday's election, a slight uptick for Obama from two weeks ago, when the race was tied at 47 percent.

Chuck Todd, NBC's political director, says one reason for the slight improvement was Obama's handling of Hurricane Sandy. "We haven't seen numbers like this for a single event for the president" since he ordered the mission that resulted in the death of terrorist leader Osama bin Laden, Todd said on NBC's Meet the Press.

Haley Barbour, the former governor of Mississippi and a respected GOP strategist, told CNN's State of the Union: "The hurricane is what broke Romney's momentum ... I don't think there's any question about it. Any day that the news media is not talking about jobs and the economy, taxes and spending, deficit and debt, Obamacare and energy, is a good day for Barack Obama. When you had a blackout, you had a blackout on all of those issues that started about last Saturday and lasted until about yesterday. That is what really was good for Barack Obama. Now, whether it will be good enough remains to be seen."

[READ: Presidential Dead Heat Shows Divided Country Unlikely to Compromise]

But some Republicans are turning critical. GOP strategist Karl Rove told Fox News Sunday, "Whatever small advantage [Obama] gained from [Sandy] is being eroded by the images that people are seeing on their television screens ... people dumpster-diving on Manhattan."

And former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani has changed his assessment of Obama's performance. He initially said the president did well in responding to the hurricane, but on Sunday, Giuliani said Obama has in recent days allowed the "abandonment" of New York. Giuliani said the current federal response to Sandy is worse than the much-criticized response to Hurricane Katrina that hit New Orleans in 2005.

The former mayor urged Obama to take a break from campaigning and prod federal emergency-management officials to move faster and more efficiently to assist the hurricane victims, whose complaints about lack of help are now spreading through the media.

[Election 2012: Examining the Swing States]

In the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, lavished praise on Obama for his response to the crisis. This caused some GOP activists to attack Christie for speaking well of the Democratic president just before Election Day.

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  • Ken Walsh covers the White House and politics for U.S. News. He writes the daily blog "Ken Walsh's Washington" and is the author of "The Presidency" column for the U.S. News Weekly. He is the author of five books, most recently "Family of Freedom: Presidents and African Americans in the White House." He can be reached at kwalsh@usnews.com or on Facebook and Twitter.