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article imageOp-Ed: Will Sandy influence the American vote?

By Raluca Besliu     Oct 30, 2012 in Politics
With super-storm Sandy approaching the East Coast, President Obama and Republican Candidate Mitt Romney suspended their campaign to prepare for the storm’s arrival and organize post-disaster responses for affected communities and people in need.
The super-storm has had a disastrous impact, as it left more than 8.1 million homes and businesses without power across 17 states, destroyed several of houses on Fire Island, N.Y., and has led to the cancellation of more than 15,000 flights.
Aside from the damage it has caused, Sandy could also have an important impact on next week’s Presidential elections.
Some political scientists have indicated the fact that extreme weather affects voters’ evaluation of politicians. In fact, voters tend to punish leaders that fail to provide adequate responses to natural disasters and reward those who react appropriately.
According to Larry Bartels, a political science professor at Vanderbilt University, the Obama administration's response to the situation is going to weigh heavier on the elections than the situation itself. Simply stated, the administration’s success or failure to respond to Sandy’s consequences could influence the election's outcome.
Thus far, the Obama administration has handled the situation well. Obama has demonstrated that, in times of crisis, he can provide strong and effective leadership. Before Sandy hit the East Coast, Obama abandoned campaigning in Florida and Ohio on Monday and returned to Washington D.C. to manage and monitor storm responses.
The President assured U.S. citizens that he had spoken to the governors of all the states situated in the storm’s path and that there weren’t any unmet needs. He also urged people living in the areas hit by the super-storm to listen to their local authorities and, in case of emergency, do as they are told.
Most importantly, Barack Obama showed he cared about the American people that would be affected by the storm. When asked about Sandy’s effects on his political campaign, the President emphasized that he was not concerned with that; instead, he cared about saving lives, setting up search and rescue teams, ensuring people get the help they need in case of an emergency and a rapid response to get the economy back on track as soon as possible.
Post-storm, the administration’s reaction stayed convincing and strong. Obama has already signed disaster declarations for the states of New York and New Jersey, allowing federal grants to be used to repair damaged homes and loans to cover property losses.
Obama has also cancelled campaigning for Wednesday, to ensure that all federal resources are provided to support state and local recovery efforts.
As a result of his timely and forceful response to Sandy, the President has already received an important acknowledgement from New Jersey’s Republican governor Chris Christie, who has praised the President’s "wonderful” handling of the situation and mentioned that the President deserves great credit for what he has done. This type of endorsement will undoubtedly help boost Obama’s campaign in New Jersey and other states as well.
Republican candidate Romney has also responded to Sandy. He has cancelled his rallies, ensured that headquarters can switch from campaigning to help rescue services, and has given practical advice to Romney team supporters living in the affected areas. Today, Mitt Romney has been doing relief events to raise money for victims of Sandy.
However, some of Romney’s statements regarding disaster relief assistance made during the Republican primaries might come back and haunt him as the election approaches. In earlier GOP debates, candidate Romney had emphasized that he wished to cut the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to help reduce the deficit and to privatize disaster relief. In the aftermath of Sandy, when the safety and well-being of numerous American citizens will depend of the federal government's capacity to release immediate disaster relief funds, this statement might determine American citizens to turn against the Republican Candidate.
Super-storm Sandy has hit four swing states, Virginia, North Carolina, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania. In the first three of these states, the Rasmussen Presidential Tracking Poll suggested that, before Sandy, Romney was leading by 3-6 percent, while Obama was only leading in Pennsylvania. The Obama administration’s rapid and swift post-disaster intervention might significantly alter these states’ as well as others' voting decision on Election Day.
As the Obama administration continues to efficiently and carefully respond to Sandy's consequences, the President might be about to turn a massive disaster into a huge electoral success.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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