Haley Barbour: The hurricane saved Obama's presidency

I’m going to call BS, partly out of conviction and partly because I just refuse to believe it. I can accept any other conclusion about the election, no matter how grim, but I can’t bear the mental load of thinking that the fate of entitlement reform might have turned on Obama putting on a natty bomber jacket with “President” embroidered on it and standing around in front of storm debris looking concerned. This is the only time you’ll ever see me stick up for low-information voters. They can’t be this dumb.

But what if they are?

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 70% made up their minds about how to vote more than a month ago, while another 18% decided within the last month.

But five percent (5%) decided within the last week and three percent (3%) within the last few days. Combined with the four percent (4%) who reached a final decision at the very last minute, this means 12% of voters decided whom to vote for in the last seven days of the race.

That’s more or less in line with the national exit poll, which found that nine percent made up their minds in “the last few days.” Doesn’t prove that the hurricane was a factor, but if you look at the RCP national polling average, you do see Romney’s lead start to evaporate on October 30 — one day after Sandy made landfall in New Jersey.

Barbour’s point is that Sandy “broke Romney’s momentum,” which might but doesn’t necessarily mean that late deciders were dazzled by Obama’s well-practiced Look of Concerned Determination. It could just mean that the storm distracted them long enough from their “Obama or Romney?” calculus that it turned into more of a “do I trust Obama as president?” referendum on O. He didn’t have any major screw-ups during the storm or afterward — well, actually, he did, but most of the media conveniently refuses to cover them — so maybe that was enough for fencesitters. If you’re lukewarm about both candidates and the incumbent seems like he’s doing okay in a big crisis, maybe you’re not so motivated to replace him. Or, as John Sexton argues in a nice post at Breitbart, maybe the storm-related photo ops helped to reinforce Obama’s advantage on the “who cares more about people like you?” question. In the exit poll, among people who said that was the most important value to them in a leader, Obama led Romney on that metric … by 63 points.

Then again, we’re not really asking here whether O benefited from his handling of the storm. We’re asking whether any benefit he received was decisive. I’m not convinced. Granted, this result is mind-boggling in the amount of stupidity it suggests:

But the depressing fact is that O was apparently leading comfortably before the storm too:

Obviously he does better among very late deciders, but a four-point lead throughout September and October — which included the Mile High Massacre at the first debate and the debacle in Benghazi — isn’t insignificant. Sandy might also have cost him votes by denying him bigger margins in blue states affected by the storm, which wouldn’t change the electoral math but would have knocked O’s popular vote total down by hundreds of thousands of votes potentially. My instinct tells me that anyone who voted for Obama because they were impressed by the perfunctory pageantry of presidential storm management during the last week was someone who was looking for reasons to vote for him anyway. If four years of economic catatonia and unsustainable deficit spending weren’t enough to dissuade them months ago, then the bomber jacket routine was just icing on the cake.

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