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'Hurricane Sandy saved Barack Obama's presidency,' says Gov. Haley Barbour

Haley Barbour, who served as Mississippi governor when Hurricane Katrina hit his state, asserted Thursday that “Hurricane Sandy saved Barack Obama’s presidency.”

“It broke the momentum that Romney had coming in to the end of October,” the former chairman of the Republican National Committee told TODAY’s Matt Lauer.

Barbour said too much attention was placed on the praise New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie showered on Obama when the president arrived to tour the damage the storm had left on the state.

“That’s not Chris Christie’s fault. Now, I do think the news media made a much bigger deal out of it that made it sound like Christie was almost endorsing Obama,” he said. “All Christie said was the president is trying to be a good partner.”

Mitt Romney also has blamed Sandy as a factor in his loss to the president. During a private breakfast Wednesday with his most loyal and generous campaign donors, Romney stopped short of blaming Christie directly. However, he did echo Barbour's belief that Sandy stunted his momentum in the final week of his campaign, the Washington Post reported, based on interviews with those attending.

Barbour said that a governor needs to do what’s in “the best interest of his state and his people.” And in this case, it was to establish a good tone for what will be a years-long relationship with the federal government.

Read story: Obama and Christie's shared praise far from unusual

Barbour said he did the same thing with former President Bush after Katrina hit the Gulf Coast region in 2005 and yet "the press attacked me for not criticizing, said that was partisan."

"I did exactly what Chris Christie did in this sense. I was taught criticize in private, praise in public," he said.

Barbour defended the Republicans' handling of the presidential campaign, saying it was nearly impossible for a new party to take over the White House from an incumbent.

“The country is very divided. It wasn’t like some big blowout for the Democrats,” he said.

What the nation should focus on is how the election drew 11.5 million fewer voters to the poll.

“That to me is something we need to all think about, Republicans and Democrats,” he said. 

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