Sandy Brings Political Drawbacks, Opportunities

National Journal

Hurricane Sandy is injecting a tropical storm-sized dose of volatility into an already unpredictable presidential race, potentially crimping Republican Mitt Romney’s post-debate momentum and President Obama’s much-hyped early-vote operation.

At a minimum, both campaigns will lose early votes from swing states in the path of the storm, a pivotal group that includes Virginia, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and New Hampshire. Depending on the hurricane’s impact, which is still being assessed, campaigning in these key states could be curtailed and preparations at local election offices could be disrupted, making it more difficult for voters to get to the polls.

Meanwhile, Obama and Romney are trying to convey the impression that the race is the last thing on their minds. As Obama put it, "The election will take care of itself next week."

In a contest this close, a clumsy response to the hurricane—especially from the White House—could be a deal-breaker. It may also present opportunities.

“Romney doesn’t have the same political opportunities as the president,” said Republican consultant Blaise Hazelwood. “If this becomes a disaster and the president handles it correctly, there are political opportunities there.” Read more

Beth Reinhard

NATIONAL JOURNAL’S PRESIDENTIAL RACE REPORT

The Statistical Significance of Sandy Could Alter Electoral, Popular-Vote Math NEW!
[National Journal, 10/30/12] Storm-diminished turnouts in several key states hit hard by the storm, particularly Pennsylvania, could cost the president tens of thousands of popular votes.  NJ’s Major Garrett explores the possibility of a split decision, a remote scenario made a little more plausible by Hurricane Sandy.

Poll: Romney, Obama in a Virtual Tie Nationwide
[National Journal, 10/30/12] Although Obama is ahead in 12 key battleground states, a new NPR poll shows the race is in a virtual deadlock just a week ahead of Election Day. The last time the poll came out, the morning of the first debate, it showed Obama with a seven-point lead. 

Romney Campaign Training Poll Watchers To Mislead Voters In Wisconsin
[Think Progress, 10/30/12] Romney’s campaign has been training poll watchers in Wisconsin with highly misleading — and sometimes false — information about voters’ rights, the liberal group Think Progress reports.

Sandy Unlikely to Prompt Change in Date of the Election
[Wall Street Journal, 10/29/12] States’ reliance on voting by electronic machines raises the prospect of a disruption from Sandy, which caused widespread power outages in several states. But Congress is unlikely to take action to set another Election Day unless they see evidence of such a disruption. Far more likely is that individual states and municipalities would lengthen their voting hours.

Opinion: A President Who Doesn’t Seem to Care NEW!
[Washington Post, 10/29/12] Liberal columnist Richard Cohen laces into the president, saying that “Obama never espoused a cause bigger than his own political survival.”

Michael Moore’s Anti-Romney Video Features Foul-Mouthed Seniors NEW!
[Daily Caller, 10/30/12] If you like octogenarians cursing and making threats at Mitt Romney, you’re going to love this new "ad" from the liberal filmmaker.

In the History of ‘October Surprises,’ There’s Nothing Like Hurricane Sandy
[National Journal, 10/29/12] There’s little precedent for a storm of this magnitude making landfall so close to a presidential election, though NJ’s Sophie Quinton offers a list of six surprise events that did shake up an election in the days before voters headed to the polls. 

Despite Rain, Columbus Had Busiest Day of Early Voting Yet 
[Washington Post, 10/30/12] Reports indicate that 4,432 people voted Monday in Franklin County. The high vote tally is good news for Democrats, who hold a strong majority in Franklin County and have been heavily pushing early voting in the Buckeye State. 

Storm Throws a Wrench into the Works of Va. Campaigns, Voting Efforts
[Washington Post, 10/29/12] Sandy’s biggest political impact will likely be in Virginia, one of the most hotly contested swing states of the year and the likeliest of those battlegrounds to get smacked by the storm. The central challenge now to officials is how to allow voting to proceed in the event of power loss.

Watch What You Say About FEMA
[National Journal, 10/30/12] NJ’s Fawn Johnson writes that, despite the controversy over Romney’s remarks about FEMA during a primary debate, Obama and the GOP nominee are in pretty close agreement about how federal disaster aid should work. Both want state and local officials to run the show, with FEMA functioning as effectively a big checkbook.

Obama, Romney Have Bypassed Pennsylvania in Advertising War – Until Now 
[Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/30/12] Pennsylvania has not been the key presidential battleground it has been in years past, which is partially reflected in the lack of network TV advertising there. But as polls show the Keystone State leaning ever so slightly away from Obama, the Romney-supporting super PAC Restore Our Future announced a $2 million statewide ad buy. 

Provisional Ballots Could Keep Ohio’s Outcome in Doubt for Days after Election
[Cleveland Plain Dealer, 10/30/12] A wildcard in declaring a winner on Election Night could be thousands of provisional ballots in Ohio, given to voters when their eligibility is in question. Election officials hold the ballots 10 days to determine eligibility.

Electoral Tie Could Bind the Senate
[Roll Call, 10/30/12] An Electoral College tie would vest the responsibility of choosing the country’s leaders squarely in what polls say is one of the least popular institutions in the country: Congress.

Asian-Americans One of Greatest Untapped Voting Blocs this Year
[Las Vegas Sun, 10/30/12] Nevada’s Asian-American community is, in many ways, the state’s best-kept political secret: They are the fastest-growing minority population in the state, now second only to Hispanic-Americans in numbers, and no party has conclusively claimed them. But many feel they are ignored.

Rhetoric Returns to Auto Bailouts
[Columbus Dispatch, 10/30/12] In the final week of this tumultuous election, the Obama administration’s decision in 2009 to funnel $82 billion toward General Motors and Chrysler has emerged as a defining issue in Ohio. The Obama campaign released a new ad rebutting Romney's claims on the bailout.

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