East Coast Hurricane: The October Surprise?


Hurricane Sandy, the storm that has already killed 21 people in the Caribbean, is now threatening the East Coast just a week before Election Day, with the National Hurricane Center's latest forecast predicting that it will be a Category 1 hurricane with 75 mph winds when it reaches the mid-Atlantic coast early Tuesday morning.

Could this be a replacement for the big "October surprise" that Donald Trump failed to deliver with his flop of a "major announcement" earlier this week? Politico speculates about ways in which the potential weather emergency could affect the last-minute work of the Obama and Romney campaigns:

1) Early voting: Voting is already under way in several states in Sandy's path — including North Carolina, where state election officials are preparing for the worst.

"Those counties that are already prone to flooding are already making plans for if they need to relocate resources like voting equipment," said Veronica Degraffenreid, a liaison at the North Carolina State Board of Elections.

She said board Executive Director Gary Bartlett also has emergency powers to suspend early voting in some locations if he deems it necessary. "We would take steps to ensure the safety of voters and election officials," she said …

2) The Katrina factor: Any disaster offers a chance for a president to step up and come to the aid of the public, or stumble and be regarded as a goat. In this case, Obama will have little time to recover if he fails to respond properly to Sandy — or if Republicans successfully plant the meme that he failed.

The classic example of what not to do, of course, is George W. Bush's lagging response to 2005's Hurricane Katrina, which forever shadowed the rest of his presidency and helped Democrats take back Congress a year later.

But Bush also provided a classic counter-example in 2004 with an aggressive, high-profile response to a six-week spree of four devastating hurricanes in Florida, where his brother Jeb was governor …

3) The distraction: As with Hurricane Irene last year, Sandy is threatening the media epicenters of New York and Washington, guaranteeing that the networks will be in All Storm All the Time mode just as Obama and Romney are trying to make their final pitches to voters.

That leaves a lot less time for talking heads to parse the details of Obama's jobs plans, Romney's efforts to distance himself from other Republicans' rape comments, Friday's report on economic growth or whether it was right for the president to call his opponent a "bull——er."

This could mostly hurt Obama, who still trails in many national tracking polls and has been trying to recapture the momentum. Or it could keep Romney from closing the deal in states where he's still behind, like Ohio …


Read more at Politico.

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