There were limitless political possibilities to consider. The Huffington Post ran an exclusive about how the hurricane could disrupt pollsters’ “ability to conduct interviews or to reach the millions of Americans who may soon be without electricity or telephone service” — thus playing havoc with the tracking polls. Writing for washingtonpost.com, Democratic strategist Carter Eskew predicted that the storm damage might make it “hard” for Obama “to be at rallies in Iowa or Colorado.”
Nobody did more hurricane war-gaming than Politico, which examined every possible political permutation: It could help Obama in Virginia and Ohio; it could hurt Obama in Virginia and Ohio; it could blunt the impact of political ads; it could magnify the impact of political ads; it could make Obama look presidential; it could magnify any Obama mistake; it could stop Romney’s momentum; it could complicate Obama’s “ground game”; it could help New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s 2016 presidential bid.
In other words: Nobody had any idea.
Just the forecast of a potential disaster can make politics look small. So far, the Romney campaign has stopped fund-raising e-mails into affected states, made a campaign bus available for relief efforts, started taking up collections in campaign offices and put up a blog with weather-related advice.
And the itinerary may change.
Optics are tricky, said one top Republican who added the schedule may change depending on what the storm does. A disaster somewhere would make campaigning anywhere difficult.
Mixing politics and weather is to double-down on the unknown.
Obama as Commander-in-Chief in a time of national emergency, not just a beleaguered incumbent presiding over a worst-ever economic recovery. The rally-around-the flag phenomenon. People looking to government for help. Beyond psychology, it might also help Obama since he seems to be leading among early voters,and the aftermath of the superstorm might prevent Romney voters from getting to the polls next Tuesday.
But the other side of that trade is this: Millions of Americans are being forced to spend lots of money on hurricane preparations — extra food, flashlights, batteries generators, plywoood, hotels — at time when they are trying to rebuild their savings. Millions of Americans whose incomes and take-home pay fell not only during the Great Recession but also during the Not-So-Great Recovery — or as I put it, the Long Recession. These unexpected expenditures might well remind many of a) how precarious their financial situation is and b) how they’re not back to even despite a supposed three-year economic rebound.
And if you think Romney is ahead, Sandy might well freeze the race to his advantage.
There is also the effect Sandy will have on the media, which already has focused primarily on the weather and much less on the presidential campaign. This gives candidates less space and time to influence events. Ordinarily, this would be a valuable time, a period when campaigns have one last week to shape voters’ preferences, but this will become extraordinary difficult…
Finally there is the big question of voting behavior. How will severe weather affect voters in states such as Virginia?
Many observers expect that this could depress voting in lower-income areas, which are often badly affected and which have the least resources to recover, a development which would naturally hurt Democrats. It also has caused cancellations in early voting that might have benefited Obama’s vote total.
Another unpredictable factor is the sheer anger and frustration that can come from a weather crisis like this, which might very well intensify the broader sense of malaise that exists in the electorate. Even to those who are not in the path of the hurricane, this could feel like one more punch in the face to a nation tired of waiting for real economic recovery.
Limbaugh said that media’s coverage of the storm will soak up news about Mitt Romney.
“The minute you tell yourself you got the game figured out, the golf gods make sure that you screw up the next two rounds. Well, the weather gods have interceded here,” Limbaugh said.
“They have intervened in this campaign and in this effort. You’ve got potential devastation and destruction in the media capitals of this country: Washington and New York,” the conservative talker continued, according to the transcript. “And the residents and the occupants of these media organizations in Washington and New York are the ones who are gonna be standing out in the street telling everybody else how bad it is. Not how bad Romney is. Not how dangerous Romney is. How dangerous the storm is.”
According to news accounts and a Republican source familiar with the outside group activity, Americans for Job Security went up with TV ads in Pennsylvania over the weekend, and Restore Our Future goes on the air there Tuesday.
And now both this source and Karl Rove speaking on Fox News Monday evening suggest American Crossroads just might also go on the Keystone State TV airwaves as early as Wednesday…
The storm has scrambled everything, including TV ad strategies, but there is no doubt that if the public polls are even close to correct, all these end-game ad buys are going to put some resource pressure on Chicago.
Fugate did not address whether the election could be delayed — a question that federal officials said last week is up for states to decide.
“Whether the election can be postponed or not is a legal black hole,” said Adam Winkler, a law professor at the University of California at Los Angeles. “There’s very little precedent for such an act.”
Federal law requires presidential elections to be held on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November, but it also provides that if a state “has failed to make a choice on the day prescribed by law, the electors may be appointed on a subsequent day in such a manner as the legislature of such State may direct.”…
At the moment, Fugate said, authorities don’t have enough information about Sandy’s impacts.
“We’re coming down to the 11th hour. We’re facing a violent storm,” Clinton said. He waited a beat, then added, “It’s nothing compared to the storm we’ll face if you don’t make the right decision in this election.”