With one week to go until election day, Superstorm Sandy is bearing down upon the eastern seaboard potentially disrupting the lives of 50 million Americans.
How will this October Halloween surprise affect the outcome of our Presidential election?
Out of the eight or nine swing states—the contests that will determine the election’s outcome—Virginia and North Carolina are in the storm’s path, with Pennsylvania to a lesser extent.
Superstorm Sandy: Benefitting Romney
There is an issue with enthusiasm. Whose voters are more enthusiastic? Those willing to weather the storm to have their electoral voices heard?
At the heart of this question is what is more animating for Republicans and Democrats—the desire to affirm their candidate, or negate the other side through anger and even hatred.
Rachel Weiner for the Washington Post writes,
“A senior adviser to President Obama said that the campaign doesn’t expect the storm to be a major issue. But according to a 2007 study published in the Journal of Politics, bad weather generally helps Republicans — better weather, the authors say, would have won Al Gore Florida in 2000. Another study, from 2004, found that “voters regularly punish governments for acts of God, including droughts, floods, and shark attacks.”
The 2007 Journal of Politics study claims lower voter turnout in the 2008 election would’ve helped McCain/Palin after analyzing data from over 3,000 counties in the continental United States for each presidential election from 1948 to 2000.
“In addition to its direct effect on voter turnout, we have shown that bad weather may affect electoral outcomes by significantly decreasing Democratic presidential vote share, to the benefit of Republicans.” ~ The Republicans Should Pray for Rain: Weather, Turnout, and Voting in U.S. Presidential Elections
The statistics amassed and methodology in processing the data point to the fact that higher voter turnout helps Democrats—idea being, more diehards and ideologues populate the right wing, and with low voter turnout they’re gonna go and vote no matter what—“come hell or high-water!” There may also be a greater commitment to the ritual and “duty of voting” among conservatives, a laudable characteristic. Additionally, voters that trend Republican may have more resources to contend with a major storm while middle and lower income voters (which trend Democratic) may be more adversely affected.
Superstorm Sandy: Benefitting Obama
President Barack Obama has been leading throughout the race. Yes there have been some percolating polls with intermittent Mitt bumping up above Obama’s support here and there. Certainly its been laughable how on FOX News if the polls are bad for Romney, suddenly the many polls’ methodologies are flawed, even “gamed”—but when they show Romney ahead, they’re totally legit.
The mainstream consensus seems to point to Obama’s lame performance on the first debate as having created momentum for Romney, and recent national polls have shown the candidates running neck-and-neck. But with Superstorm Sandy crashing down on the Eastern seaboard voters will not be constantly reminded of Romney’s momentum anymore as Storm Watch 2012! will dominate the news.
President Obama will get down to the business of being President in the midst of a national crisis—Romney who?
The key here, is that this dynamic of closeting Romney’s best media story—his momentum—is a national phenomenon, whereas the voter turnout factor will only occur in the swing states directly affected by Sandy.
The de facto result of this may deliver President Obama a victory in a very favorable electoral landscape. After all, Romney has several difficult hurdles to overcome, including, defeating an incumbent that has done a pretty good job, and overcoming the electoral handicap he faces.
Will Superstorm Sandy make an impact? Probably so, but whether it means Democrats staying home, or the vaunted swing voters forgetting about Romney’s momentum, only the shadow cast by Superstorm Sandy knows.