STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Now, the effects of this powerful storm have forced President Obama and his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, to alter their campaign schedules. The president has cancelled a rally that was scheduled in Florida. We're also told of a rally that's been cancelled in Wisconsin.
Cokie Roberts spoke with us earlier on this program. She's been following the effects, the potential effects of this storm on the campaign.
COKIE ROBERTS, BYLINE: Hi, Steve.
ROBERTS: So the president has cancelled his rally this morning in Orlando, Florida, and is headed back to Washington to be in command of this storm. And I think that that is the image that we are going to see - to the degree that we have electricity to see anything - over the next couple of days, is the president being presidential. He went yesterday to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and he is going to absolutely show that he is the guy that is the president, and the other guy is just a pretender.
INSKEEP: Now, beyond that, what are the practical effects, if any, if you can tell them, of having a storm arrive on the East Coast, grab so much attention, and incidentally swipe some swing states?
ROBERTS: Well, it is - first of all, they've canceled, by last count, 19 events. A couple of events have - are going on with surrogates there. But it's early voting that we're really looking at. By the way, both campaigns have also stopped fundraising in the affected states. A little bit of taste, there.
But Maryland and The District of Columbia have cancelled early voting for today. The governor of Maryland was just on our local public radio station, saying stay inside.
Virginia is the real issue - Virginia, a total toss-up state. It just keeps being even in polls, or with the president slightly ahead. And it has odd early voting rules, anyway. And they seem to be all over the map about what they're doing today.
What we're reading in USA Today is that more than 12 million people have already voted, Steve. And then the question is: Who are those people? And we tend to think that early voters are Democrats, but it's looking like more of them are Republicans than that has been true in the past.
INSKEEP: Republicans tried to make up an advantage that they have had there. And you're saying that some of the early counts suggest that they have made up part of that advantage. Let me ask you...
ROBERTS: Particularly in Florida.
INSKEEP: In Florida, where the Republicans traditionally have had a big lead in absentee ballots, which Democrats have tried to catch up on. Now, let me ask about the media coverage here, Cokie, because, of course, the media can only pay attention to one story at a time. Does this effectively freeze the race for at least a couple of days? Anybody who has a political message to get out is not going to do very well at getting it out there.
ROBERTS: I think that's right. And, look, to be fair to those of us in the media, this is an enormous storm. You've just heard Jon Hamilton talking about that. This is a huge story, affecting millions and millions of people. And, you know, we're more concerned about whether we're going to have electricity than whether, you know, Mitt Romney or Barack Obama say something new today.
So I think that the person it's more likely to affect is Governor Romney, because we've seen - for the last couple of weeks, since the first debate - enthusiasm building around his campaign, particularly among those all-important independent voters, and particularly in that all-important state of Ohio, where President Obama had been running ahead, and the latest poll is dead-even with Governor Romney.
If this just sort of wipes his message off for a few days, I think that works to the president's advantage, because, again, as I said earlier, not only does he look presidential, but the momentum behind Romney, such as it is - and I think it is real - could be at least temporarily halted. And temporarily is, right now, of course, very important. We're talking a week from tomorrow.
INSKEEP: Cokie Roberts joins us most Mondays with political analysis. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.