How will Hurricane Sandy affect US presidential candidates?
Will Romney live to regret saying last year that America cannot afford federal disaster relief?
THE political fall-out from the 'Frankenstorm' is being felt in Washington as Barack Obama and Mitt Romney grapple with the consequences for their election campaigns.
Campaigning in battleground states was abandoned yesterday and some early voting cancelled as both sides "recalibrated their strategies" for a race that was looking like a dead heat before the the storm arrived, according to the Washington Post.
Each camp confronted the same quandary, says the New York Times: whether pressing ahead with campaigning would earn them the votes they needed to win or whether it would be seen as crass, unpresidential behaviour at a time of power failures, flooding and mass evacuations. "Within hours of each other, both campaigns suspended appearances by their candidates at least through Tuesday."
The big question is what happens next – and whether either candidate can benefit from the emergency. As Dana Millbank asked in the Washington Post, will the tracking polls be "skewed" because of storm victims failing to answer their phones? Will power cuts keep voters from receiving the campaign messages? Will Friday's all-important jobs report be delayed because the Labor Department had to close?
In a debate on Politico, most agreed that, as Commander-in-Chief, Obama's reaction to the storm would be crucial. But Romney could also benefit. "Unanticipated events and big national moments offer an opportunity for candidates to further define themselves and bolster their image," said former Bill Clinton aide Michael A Siegel.
"Indeed, there's research that shows that voters blame incumbents for poor weather," reports The Daily Telegraph. "One study calculated that Al Gore lost 2.8 million votes to George W Bush because of droughts and floods."
However, Romney's past could come back to haunt him, reports The Atlantic. In 2011 Romney told CNN that America should no longer provide federal disaster relief and that states should be forced to deal with disasters themselves. Central government "cannot afford to do those things without jeopardising the future for our kids," he said.
There has even been talk that the 6 November ballot could be postponed. Writing on Salon, Brad Friedman raised the "serious question of whether voters will be able to vote on Election Day at all, particularly in states that force voters to use electronic voting systems at the precincts".
But Politico warns "any potential tinkering with Election Day would bring a bevy of legal issues" and says there is a "lack of information" about the impact of the storm and the rights of election officials to delay the vote.