There is no doubt that Hurricane Sandy has caused an unprecedented amount of damage all across the Caribbean and the Eastern Coast of the United States. In the U.S. as of October 31st, 46 people have been reported dead as a result of the hurricane and metropolitan areas in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Virginia and DC have come to standstills as transportation systems have been flooded and millions have been left without power.
This all has occurred with only a little over a week to go to the presidential election. It almost seems as if we have forgotten, but we are indeed selecting a new president on November 6th of this year. The big challenge, it seems, for the two candidates is to not seem careless and cold-hearted as many people are currently suffering.
This week, Barack Obama canceled all campaign events until Wednesday, October 31st, when he will tour the aftermath of the hurricane with New Jersey governor Chris Christie, a big Romney supporter who has nonetheless applauded the president on his handling of the crisis. Romney made a storm-related appearance in Dayton,Ohio and has made several appearances aiding Red Cross workers load and unload materials (although his helpfulness there has come into question).
Basically, both politicians have tried to use it as best to their advantage as they can, and indeed they can’t really do much more until Sandy has gone off the news, lest they want to look like heartless scumbags. The interesting thing about this specific disaster is that it has effected very few swing-states to a great extent, except Pennsylvania. This meaning that the Romney surge of support and momentum may not have been fully deteriorated and yet that possibly any enthusiasm Obama had on the east coast has been downplayed by the storm. This will probably not be too significant as the storm has also given Obama an opportunity to seem presidential and to establish a leading position in storm relief very close to the election.
What this storm has done is it has taken away the interest from the clashing ideologies of the two possible futures of America. Indeed, Romney’s momentum has not shown to be stopping in most battleground states, and thus at this political standstill where politics has almost been forgotten in wake of a disaster has left Obama scrambling to attack his opponent indirectly through advertising while remaining the apparent messiah during the storm. Both politicians have maintained their advertising campaigns in hope that they may influence the public in a time when they directly cannot.
On Monday, Obama returned to his job as commander in chief and Romney put aside his sharpest attacks on the president in wake of the storm. On Tuesday, Obama again canceled all campaign appearances and Romney renamed his appearances as relief efforts in an attempt to not seem out-of-touch while attempting to hold on to his debate-momentum.
The thing is, the two cannot go negative against each other directly and once the storm has passed, they will have to simply use a gut instinct to determine when to speak and what tone to use.
Following the attacks on 9/11 which came days before the New York City mayoral election, polls were frozen and votes cast on the day were voided. Following the rescheduling of the primary, the two contestants Mark Green and Bloomberg, had no playbook through which they could stump each other. The entire rationale for choosing a candidate became revolved around 9/11.
Following the massacre of 12 people in a Colorado movie theater in July of 2012, Obama and Romney both shifted their rallies from campaign events to events of mourning. They canceled events, took down negative ads in the state for a while and made appearances that turned into expressions of public grief. The likes of these actions have yet to be seen due to Sandy, and this may be the case because the shootings in Colorado were so much more secluded, event-wise than is this hurricane. Yet, we can expect similar actions to be taken later on by both candidates.
At this time it appears that the politicians have calculated that public approval of their reactions to this disaster is more important than campaigning during it. Instead they seem to want to look busy and caring, while trying to spark some sort of a dim enthusiasm for their campaigns in the rest of the country. In swing-states like Iowa and Florida, Romney continues to hold rallies with mixed political and relief-aid type undertones. Obama is also expected to resume campaigning in the coming days.
All in all, we must go back to the attention span of most Americans, which is quite short. Thus, it can be predicted that indeed this tragedy will impact the presidential race, but it will likely not impact it to the point where it will disrupt the other important matters in people’s lives.