Hurricane could be Obama's October surprise
Given the president's sagging standing in the polls, some experts say it might be good for him to shift gears and deal with the storm.
By Eric Pianin
As Hurricane Sandy threatens to plow its way northeast through the political battleground states of Florida, North Carolina and Virginia early next week, this potentially disastrous freak of nature could well become the October Surprise of the presidential campaign.
With mounting signs that the late season hurricane or tropical storm could combine with a nor'easter to wreak havoc and flooding up and down the nation's Eastern seaboard, Sandy could become the perfect storm that tests President Obama's mettle in juggling his critical last-minute campaigning with the urgent demands of his office.
Obama has been crisscrossing the country on Air Force One at a frenetic clip as Republican rival Mitt Romney inches ahead in the national polls and in a few key battleground states. If the two or three day storm that meteorologists are now predicting materializes just before Halloween, Obama may have to cancel a slew of campaign appearances to focus on the federal government's responses.
Given the downward trend of his campaign, some experts think that wouldn't be a bad idea.
"Anytime a president is put in such a difficult situation, you have a real chance to show presidential leadership," said Jim Manley, a Washington political strategist and former press secretary to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. "It's always difficult to discuss these kinds of natural disasters, but the fact is – depending on what happens – this has a chance to show the president once again in command, and showing leadership as the country tries to deal with the impact of the storm."
John Hudak, a presidential and governance scholar with Brookings Institution agrees: "If there is a serious disaster in the next few days anywhere on the Eastern seaboard, no one talks about Romney then. Romney is no part of any story, except, of course, I'm sure he'll hold a press conference to speak on the tragedy, as anyone would do as the challenger. But all eyes are on the president. It's something money can't buy."
Concerns about the hurricane caused the Romney campaign to cancel a Sunday rally planned for Virginia Beach, The Washington Post reported Friday.
Obama has been briefed repeatedly on Hurricane Sandy and the White House is urging people in the storm's path to listen to local officials and monitor weather reports. White House press secretary Jay Carney says federal emergency management officials have been working with local officials to prepare.
Back in early September, while touring the damage in New Orleans caused by Hurricane Isaac, Obama took a thinly veiled potshot at former president George W. Bush for his slow and inadequate response to Hurricane Katrina. "I want to particularly thank FEMA and the state and local authorities, because sometimes in the past we haven't seen the kind of coordination that is necessary in response to these kinds of disasters. . . . We made sure that we had the disaster declarations happen quickly so that we weren't behind the eight ball."
Hurricane Sandy raged through the Bahamas early Friday after leaving 40 people dead across the Caribbean, following a path that could see it blend with a winter storm to hit the U.S. East coast with a superstorm next week. Sandy knocked out power, flooded roads and cut off islands in the Bahamas as it charged through Cat Island and Eleuthera, with authorities reporting one death in the scattered archipelago.
Eager to avoid another Katrina-like disaster, the Obama administration ordered emergency supplies sent to New Orleans five days before Isaac hit. And if the deadly Sandy turns into another weather calamity for the eastern part of the country, the president is all but certain to don his FEMA rain slicker and visit devastated areas that also happen to be rich in swing and undecided voters.
The storm will be hitting in the last full week before the Nov. 6 election, and early voting is already underway in many states, notably Ohio and in-person balloting in Florida, where Democrats hope to gain a decisive lead before Election Day. Political scientists have long studied the effects of inclement weather on voter turnout and – far from surprising – found that people would rather stay home than brave bad weather to vote.
According to a recent survey by the Weather Channel, 35 percent of undecided voters say bad weather will have a "moderate to significant" impact on whether they vote, compared to 27 percent of Democrats and 20 percent of Republicans.
Eric Pianin is the Washington Editor at The Fiscal Times. Subscribe to The Fiscal Times' free newsletter.
More from The Fiscal Times
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- Tornadoes, Hurricanes, Floods: Why You'll Pay, Too
- Extreme Weather: Striking a Blow to Government Budgets
- Obama Resurrects His Failed 4-Year-Old Agenda
No leadership equals no second term.
McCain, any member of the Senate that supposely knows all about politics and selected a Moron as Palin for VP, and doing such a terrible mistake that could have put our USA at the mercy of all kind of political perversion, with no expert inteligence guidance us needs to be very stupid! Now you are endorsing Romney, but you need to learn from the Palin lesson if you trust him at all, and the response is NO trust, but he's a Republican ! Romney, you presently have worthless political policies, and multiple wrong proposals for the present economy that will not work to help us in the future! Very soon as your ego feeds your enthusiasm for the White House you will find failure, all because the briefcase you carry is full of empty promises to the middle class. You speak with a false tongue every opportunity you have to addresses the ignorant that attend your meetings as you are are a well known liar, and much better pushing hypocritically false promises to the American people. You did not win the fourth "Presidential Debate", but you purposely confused sixty five million viewers all the way trough the 90 minutes duration of your messy palabras showing your own ignorance in Foreign Politics ! You truly have become too confident! You think you are on a political success on a roll on winning the Presidency. But Romney, your lies are now fully discovered by the humble citizens of the 47% middle class, now depressed for eight years by Bush politics, and dishonest policies ! The sixty five millions of television viewers saw you putting a fake performance and talk stupid Universal Political policies. Your unprecedented confusion in all Foreign Political topics that Obama had to correct you all the time. You Romney, will fade away as the million viewers now know you brain only work to make millions of dollars in Outsourcing American jobs to China! Finally you know nothing about Foreign Politics, and you are very dangerous for our USA if you take the presidency, soon smart citizens will push you into the darkness of rejection forever. Citizens, vote Democrat for OBAMA, and get the best president to protect us from outsourcing jobs, and full economic collapsed
republicans can't have it both ways. im waiting for the "how horrible" a job the president is doing in handling the hurricane or the president is politicizing the hurricane for political gain. Ask Gov, Christy his opinion on both attack lines?
Ohio Democrats for Romney/Ryan !! Obama is not the answer to our Country's Problems ! Romney is a Winner ! He has and will work with Democrats ! Obama has not and will not work with Republicans !
Obama will be IMPEACHED soon ! OHIO for Romney !!! .........and I am a Democrat !!
Using the hurricane to boost his standing in polls. Pathetic.
Go to Vegas again and campaign. Oh wait, you learned your lesson there, that's why you came back from Florida.
All this guy cares about is reelection. Not Benghazi, not Tyrone Woods, just power. Harry Reid is a loyal puppet to the President. Politicizing an imminent disaster is in the poorest of tatse.
surprise surprise. rhe surprise is the man made bungled one. bengazigate.
AND THE LEFT WING MEDIA SAY THE RIGHT AND ROMNEY USE INAPPROPRIATE
THINGS FOR CAMPAIGNING? OBAMA DIDN'T HAVE TIME FOR 4 AMERICANS KILLED
HE JETTED OFF TO LAS VEGAS AND HE'S STILL LYING TO THE AMERICAN PEOPLE
BUT HAD TIME TO DO A CAMPAIGN PHOTO OP WITH FEMA? WHERE WAS HE IN SEPT
WHEN LOUISIANA GOT HIT BY A HURRICANE FOR 3 DAYS? NOWHERE CAUSE I WAS THERE!
I JUST HEARD HIS PRESS COMMENT 'HE'S WORRIED ABOUT PROTECTING AMERICANS' ? WHAT?
AND NOW LEFT WING MEDIA KEEPS DISTORTING THE POLLS WITH THEIR LEFT BIAS OPINIONS!
I THINK ROMNEY IS SO FAR AHEAD THAT THERE IS SERIOUS POLL FRAUD GOING ON! THE LEFT
WING MEDIA LOVE THIS HURRICANE CAUSE THEY DON'T HAVE TO FAKE REAL NEWS STORIES!
ROMNEY, MANY TIMES YOU HAVE GIVEN YOUR STUPID OPINION ABOUT "FEMA". YOU WANTS TO CUT THE MONEY FOR FEMA AS RYAN AND CANTOR DID A WHILE BACK! YOU WANT TO MAINTAIN A FORM OF PRIVATZED FEMA WHEN YOU BECOME PRESIDENT, AND GIVE THE BUSINESS OF PROTECTING OF OUR CITIZENS IN THE EVENT OF STORMS, EARTHQUAKES, HURRICANES TO A JUNKY PRIVATE AGENCY TO MAINTAIN THE ORDER AND RESCUE OPERATIONS OF OUR CITIZENS. WITH THIS MASSIVE STORM THAT HIT US SO HARD, A PRIVATE BUSINESS TO PROTECT THE PEOPLE HAD BEEN A JOKE. NO PRIVATE FIRM CAN MOBILIZE THOUSAND OF GOVERNMENT PERSONNEL AND FIRST RESPONDERS ALL OVER OUR COUNTRY WITH PRECISION, ENERGY, TRUST AND PERSEVERANCE, AND FAST RESCUE PROCEDURES THAN A WELL ORGANIZED GOVERNMENT AGENCY TO HELP OUR PEOPLE CAN DO ---SO ROMNEY YOU ARE SICK IN THE HEAD, LEARN A NEW LESSON, WE DO NOT WANT YOU BECAUSE YOU WILL GIVE THE SALVATION OF OUR PEOPLE TO A JUNKY AGENCY THAT WILL BE SLEEP DURING THE WHOLE DISASTER! YOUR AGENCY WILL BE A DUPLICATE OF BUSH FEMA, AND THAT WE WILL NOT TOLERATE THIS TIME. SO GO ON TO YOUR CAR ELEVATORS AND MONEY AND LEAVE US ALONG. VOTE FOR OBAMA THE TRUE CARE PRESIDENT ON NOV 6, 2012
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