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Hurricane Sandy Halts Pre-Election Activity
Professor of Political Management Christopher Arterton explains the impact the storm could have on the 2012 presidential race.
October 29, 2012
With the arrival of Hurricane Sandy—a “superstorm” that is projected to affect more than 60 million people—a majority of the activity surrounding the 2012 presidential race has been put on hold. Rallies, campaign stops and early voting has been canceled in many states, including Ohio and Virginia, two vital swing states.
Professor of Political Management Christopher Arterton spoke with George Washington Today about how Hurricane Sandy may affect the upcoming presidential election and which candidate could suffer the most.
Q: How will cancellations of rallies, early voting and campaign events impact this year's race?
A: I don't think the storm will have much political effect due to the cancellation of campaign rallies and events. They are, by and large, activities that involve the truly committed. Candidates travel not only to bolster the enthusiasm of their supporters but also to gain news coverage. As I write this, Obama is holding a press conference, emblematic of the fact that he will be able to continue to make news and be legitimately in charge of emergency efforts.
There will be more of an impact on early voting, but only in two or three states: Virginia and Ohio and possibly New Hampshire. The remaining states directly in the storm track are solidly in Obama's camp. Of course with a combined total of 33 electoral votes, they could be critical. Of these, Virginia is likely to be hit hardest by the storm.
Q: Could Hurricane Sandy have more of an impact on one candidate over the other?
A: Obama is committed to early voting, so that may hurt him. But Obama gets to remind everyone that he is president and make “statesman-like” comments including the one at his press conference, “I'm not worried about the campaign right now ... I’m worried about the safety of people.” Also, if all goes well with the emergency response, it will help Obama.
Q: Have there been campaign interruptions of this magnitude in the past?
A: The closest I can think of would be a major snowstorm on Election Day. But, honestly, I don’t know of an instance in which that occurred. Anyway, we know that bad weather on the day of the election can depress turnout markedly and that usually affects one party (the Democrats) somewhat more than the other.
Q: Will Obama and Romney's response to Hurricane Sandy influence the polls?
A: I believe the storm will be a challenge to Obama. If the emergency response and cleanup go well, it will help him a small amount. If they go badly, the Republicans (though probably not Romney himself) will jump all over the president and his administration.