Could Obama's Handling of Sandy Make the Election?

4 years ago

Election day is one week away, but Superstorm Sandy has thrown this tightest of presidential elections into another whirlwind. The massive storm – and its aftermath – have forced President Obama off the campaign trail and on to something even more formidable: proving his presidential mettle in the wake of a natural disaster. The President has cancelled his campaigning through Wednesday. Instead of stumping in the swing states of Florida, Wisconsin, Virginia, and Ohio as planned, the President is buckling down in Washington D.C. The First Lady, Vice President Joe Biden and former President Bill Clinton will take his place on the campaign trail.

Oct. 29, 2012 - Washington, DC, USA - U.S. President Barack Obama speaks about preparations for Hurricane Sandy during a briefing at the White House in Washington, D.C., on Monday, October 29, 2012. (Credit Image: © Joshua Roberts/MCT/

So far, the president has managed to respond quickly and without chest thumping. Because let's face it: even though candidates must avoid the appearance of using a national disaster for political purposes, all eyes are on Obama and Romney this week. In his Monday speech just hours before Sandy made landfall, President Obama urged people to stay focused on safety and standing together, not politics:

“I’m not worried, at this point, about the impact on the election,” he said. “I’m worried about the impact on families. I’m worried about the impact on our first responders. I’m worried about the impact on our economy and on transportation. The election will take care of itself next week.”

The loudest praise for the President’s handling of the disaster comes from one of his most vocal critics. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is bridging the party chasm to praise the President’s handling of the storm ravaged East Coast. While Christie has eagerly taken on the role of the GOP’s tough talking Romney surrogate, this morning, his larger-than-life persona was replaced by an uncharacteristically somber governor, thanking President Obama and FEMA for sending aid to the Jersey Shore.

Then again, there’s a chance whatever happens this week may not hold as much importance as we think. Not only are most voters’ minds already made up, many have already cast their ballots. Increasing numbers of people have already voted by mail or through early in-person balloting, the final week before election day may not be as significant as it has in the past. According to one study, as many as 40% of eligible voters may vote early this year.While general polls tend to show Obama and Romney running neck and neck among likely voters, give or take a few points, returns are showing don’t allow early voting.

What will happen on Thursday, when both candidates are expected to hit the campaign trail again?

News and Politics Editor Grace Hwang Lynch blogs at HapaMama and A Year (Almost) Without Shopping.

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