Hunkered down in my apartment in Virginia Beach, VA, I’ve been running circles from the windows to the TV to the computer, obsessing on Hurricane Sandy since 3:45 Monday morning. I noticed something unusual—little to no political ads. Not much in the way of campaign propaganda whatsoever. Was I simply sleep deprived, or was something unusual going on?
As it turns out, something unusual was going on. Meteorologically speaking, this is an unusual hurricane: according to The Weather Channel the Eastern Seaboard (north of my neck of the woods) has historically experienced six such hurricanes and none of them this late in the year—or this close to a presidential election. With such incredible timing, I’m tempted to think of our Frankenstorm as a sort of third party candidate, a dark horse. Sandy for President, anyone?
Now, I obviously don’t expect anyone to vote a freak weather occurrence into office, even as a write-in, but think about it this way: like any good third party candidate, this may act as a distraction from big party politics, and may even take a few votes away from both sides. Today’s Libertarian Party under the fanatical spell Ron Paul-like reforms may have cost both parties as many as 13,000 votes, just as (and possibly because of) Ross Perot campaign’s success in the 1992 election, in which he received 19% of the popular vote. In a race as close as this, numbers of these proportions regardless of their origin, are a big deal.
How Sandy behaves, what moves she makes and who she impacts, will affect how both candidates react and carry out the remainder of their campaigns. For the Obama camp, the decision was made to evacuate the president from an event in Florida to Washington, D.C. in order to effectively manage the storm and communicate directly with FEMA. The Romney camp also decided to regroup, leaving Virginia for Ohio, where Romney met with running mate Ryan.
The need to exemplify leadership during a national crisis, and the need to successfully campaign in these final days, presents and obvious conundrum. For President Obama, there is “an opportunity for the president to show Americans he’s ‘a strong, active incumbent’”, per John Fund of The National Review. Romney may be able to carry on as long as he doesn’t choose to politicize this event the same way he did with the terrorist attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya or less dramatically, his visit to New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Issac. (And as it turns out, I wasn’t merely sleep deprived: both campaigns informed their followers that the fundraising efforts would be halted for those affected by the storm’s path.)
While she’s not holding her own campaign events, Sandy’s sure as hell done a good job of disrupting everybody else’s.
There is a high degree of fear associated with storm damage, and rightfully so, and some are speculating that such damage may affect our ability to make it to the early polling stations and even the polling stations on election day itself. Even as I sit here behind my storm windows, emergency bottled water in arm’s reach, I say this: never mind our physical ability to make to the polls, and never mind looking like a leader during this state of emergency—the candidate who does the most to genuinely aid those not lucky enough to make it out on November 6th will shine through as the best choice this election.
Original image source: Eric Cantor