Richard Luscombe: This ill wind may blow Obama no good
SUPERSTORM Sandy has blown campaigning for the US presidential election off course, with some analysts predicting Barack Obama’s chances of a second term in the White House could be adversely affected by the size of the massive storm.
Mr Obama, who had already postponed visits to the crucial swing states of Virginia and Colorado over the weekend as the cyclone closed in, added Florida and Wisconsin to his list of cancellations yesterday to return to Washington DC and oversee recovery efforts.
Mitt Romney, his Republican rival next Tuesday, was forced to switch campaign stops from Virginia to Ohio to avoid coastal areas of the north-eastern US where the hurricane was expected to wreak most havoc.
Both candidates faced losing valuable last-minute television airtime because of the probability of extended power cuts. Mr Obama, in particular, was in danger of surrendering support from voters denied the opportunity to vote early as polling stations shut down.
In Maryland, governor Martin O’Malley ordered the closure of all early voting centres, while officials in Virginia were mulling extended polling hours once the worst has passed.
“This storm is a major wild card and, in the worst case scenario, all bets are off,” Kevin Wagner, professor of political science at Florida Atlantic University, told The Scotsman.
“Anything that affects turnout will affect the result, and in a tight race all you need is a move of a couple of percentage points and you change the whole election.
“Traditionally, early voting has done a favour for the Democrats and the indications are that they were doing pretty well. But this is something Obama has no choice over. Any time a disaster strikes, you have to be in control.”
Others believe the candidates will have learned from previous disasters. “One of the things that killed George Bush’s popularity was the response to Hurricane Katrina,” said John Barry Ryan, associate professor of political science at Florida State University, Tallahassee.
“Both candidates will talk about the storm and get much coverage, but Obama gets to speak as the president and Romney doesn’t, so that will help him. He gets to make himself look good, confident and presidential.
“But the problem with that is it’s so late, and most people have already made up their minds. It comes down to getting supporters out there, getting people out to vote. Anything that suppresses turnout is bad for the Democrats.”
Senior Democrats recognise the potential political implications, with campaign adviser David Axelrod telling CNN that Sandy’s approach made campaigning harder.
“The best thing we can do is focus on how we can help people during this storm and hope that it all clears out and that by the next weekend we’ll be free of it and people can focus on the election,” he said.
“Obviously we want unfettered access to the polls because we believe that the more people come out, the better we’re going to do.”
Former president Bill Clinton, meanwhile, used the hurricane to rally Democratic supporters at an event in Connecticut, one of the states likely to be badly hit. “We’re facing a violent storm,” he said. “It’s nothing compared to the storm we’ll face if you don’t make the right decision in this election.”
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Weather for Edinburgh
Saturday 25 May 2013
Temperature: 6 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 13 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 9 C to 16 C
Wind Speed: 14 mph
Wind direction: South west