Hurricane Sandy and the presidential election

Here, where I live in Silver Spring, Maryland, just outside Washington, DC, Hurricane Sandy hit hard, all day yesterday and almost all night. It was stormy, really stormy, but we were lucky – dodged a bullet — not even a power outage, which we otherwise always suffer when big storms move across the Washington area. The large trees in our front yard still stand although they swayed alarmingly during hard rain and violent winds.

So we were lucky, while north of us there is tragedy and utter devastation — upwards of 40 deaths, eight million without power, and billions and billions in damages.

It’s hard to gage the effects of the big storm in the upcoming election, but my inclination is that Obama might profit, politically, from Sandy, if he does not make any serious mistakes or gaffes.  Both Obama and Romney have suspended their campaigns, at least until tomorrow, which has put Obama in the center of this huge news story while it has forced Romney to the sidelines, without any role at all, away from the center of attention. And it happened just as Romney was reported to gain fresh momentum.

How will this affect the very last days of this campaign? We don‘t know, at least not yet, but this has not prevented “a perfect storm of political speculation,” as one of Washington Post columnists writes today.

So far, President Obama seems to have done well and praise such as from Republican New Jersey governor Chris Christie, cannot hurt:

“President Obama called me last night around midnight … to ask what else could be done [and] offered any other assets that we need … I’ll have to say the administration, the president himself and FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate have been outstanding with us so far . We have a great partnership with them, and I want to thank the president personally for his personal attention to this. “

Tomorrow, when the president visits the devastated New Jersey shores together with Christie, this message will be re-enforced. And Romney can only stand by and watch.

But there are also possible negatives for the Obama campaign in that Sandy has put an end to early voting in some states. So far, 15 million voters have already voted, of which over a million in the key state of Ohio. Another nearly 20 million are expected to vote early, the majority of them being Obama voters. If they are now prevented from voting early because of Sandy, and if they then don’t have time or are able to vote on Election Day, it could have negative consequences for the Obama campaign. Remember: turnout is key.

But, we really don’t know, yet.

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Goodnight Irene!

It’s getting close to midnight and the wind and the rain from Hurricane Irene pound the house and the windows. So far, we have fared better than we expected. Electricity is still on, to our great surprise, since power cuts are legion every time it blows a bit in Washington. Lots of trees are down. The streets are empty. People are home. All the TV channels are covering the big weather story.

Out on the Atlantic coast and around the Chesapeake Bay, about an hour east of Washington, it is worse. Irene passed right over there and up along the coast, towards Atlantic City and New York. The lovely beach resorts are practically empty, at the height of the summer season, since everyone has been told to leave.

We’ll see tomorrow when we wake up what damage Irene has caused. And we will see tomorrow how New York fared when Irene hits the Big Apple early in the morning.

So, for now, goodnight Irene!