As Hurricane Sandy bears down on the East Coast, some political observers have noted that it could have a major effect on the upcoming presidential election. Here are five ways.
Polling places could be damaged.
Polling places are just as susceptible to wind and water damage as homes and businesses. Poll workers who literally run the election could also find themselves without power or away from home, making the logistics of running the election more difficult.
Louisiana Secretary of State Tom Schedler: “After the storm, determine if your locations are still viable and usable and if they’re not, make sure you move and consolidate precincts. We did that here in Louisiana with the big mayoral election after Katrina. As long as you have locations, power and equipment or paper ballots -- you can still have the election and go forward.”
Voters may not see political ads.
Both campaigns are spending millions of dollars on advertising on television and radio. They may suspend advertising if the storm causes massive damage. But if power goes out, people won’t see ads even if they are on the air.
New York magazine: “Politics might well take a back seat to the storm for the next few days, with many television stations expected to bump political ads for more live coverage of Sandy’s approach and impact.”
Candidates may have to stop campaigning.
During natural disasters, the president often skips campaign events to oversee federal response efforts. That means President Obama won’t be holding campaign rallies or even fundraisers during the remaining days of the election. That puts Romney in an awkward position, since he could look bad if he continues.
Democratic consultant Bob Shrum: “If this storm is bad enough, and if tens of millions of people are without power, and the seawalls have been breached in New York City, the president’s got to get off the campaign trail - he’s got to go run the country.”
Unlikely voters may not go to the polls.
The storm will affect parts of Virginia and potentially Ohio, crucial swing states. If people have to leave their homes or have their cars damages, it could be harder to get to the polls on Election Day. For so-called “low-propensity voters,” that could make a difference.
Political reporter John Dickerson: “The number of days you lose because of the weather to turn out those people who don’t normally turn out, that’s a challenge. It’s why it’s a little more of a challenge from the weather for Democrats on that score.”
Voters may subconsciously blame the incumbent.
Research by Larry Bartels of Vanderbilt University and Christopher Achen of Princeton University found that severe drought and excessive rainfall may have cost Vice President Al Gore the 2000 election by dampening enthusiasm for the incumbent party.
Political science professor Gabriel Lenz: “You might imagine there’s an ideal world in some peoples’ heads where everyone votes on policy and knows what the candidates and parties stand for. I think we’re pretty sure we’re not in that world.”