Hurricane Sandy could impact US presidential election


US President Barack Obama receives a briefing on Hurricane Sandy at the Federal Emergency Management Agency in Washington, DC, on Oct. 28, 2012. At right is FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate.


Nicholas KAMM

With the US presidential election only a week away, every campaign event counts, so Sunday night, President Barack Obama flew to Orlando, Fla., to squeeze in one more rally Monday morning before Hurricane Sandy hit the coast. But with the storm gathering strength, he changed his mind and returned to Washington, DC, early Monday, CBS News reported.

"Due to deteriorating weather in the Washington area, the President will no longer attend today's campaign event in Orlando," White House spokesman Jay Carney said in a statement, according to CBS News. "The President will return to Washington to monitor the preparations for and response to Hurricane Sandy."

Obama has cleared his schedule of campaign events Monday and Tuesday, dispatching Vice President Joe Biden to fill in for him at a Youngstown, Ohio, rally with former President Bill Clinton, according to CBS News. Obama will skip a campaign event in Green Bay, Wis., Tuesday night.

The storm's path also forced opponent Mitt Romney to cancel a rally in Virginia Beach, according to the Washington Post, but he appeared in Ohio today. Following the announcement that Obama was canceling his campaign stops, the Romney campaign made a similar choice around midday, Milwaukee, Wisc., ABC affliliate WISN TV reported

"Out of sensitivity for the millions of Americans in the path of Hurricane Sandy, we are canceling tonight's events with Governor Romney in Wisconsin and Congressman Ryan in Melbourne and Lakeland, Florida," Ben Sparks from the Romney/Ryan campaigns said in a statement, according to WISN. "We are also canceling all events currently scheduled for both Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan on Tuesday."

Messing up campaign schedules is just one way Sandy could sway the election in one direction or the other, but political observers say it’s unclear which candidate will benefit from this October surprise.

According to the Washington Post:

If Obama handles the crisis well, it would likely boost his image; if he handles it poorly, it could damage it.

Free of presidential obligations, Mitt Romney can continue to visit battleground states, but with Sandy dominating the news, voters may not be as attentive to his messages on the airwaves, the New York Times reported.

Finally, the storm may hamper access to the polls. Sandy’s likely to put the kibosh on early voting, which typically helps Democrats, in some locations along the Eastern Seaboard, the New York Times reported. And if flooding and power outages persist through Nov. 6, voters may not turn out in key states like Virginia, North Carolina and Pennsylvania.

Obama dismissed election talk after he delivered a message to the nation on Hurricane Sandy this afternoon, the Dallas Morning News reported. Answering a reporter's question, he said, “I am not worried at this point about the impact on the election. Right now, our No. 1 priority is to make sure we’re saving lives."

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