'Superstorm' meets barnstorm as weather and politics collide
Winds from outer bands of Hurricane Sandy blow through Miami on Wednesday.
October 26th, 2012
01:44 PM ET
10 years ago

'Superstorm' meets barnstorm as weather and politics collide

(CNN) – The potential "superstorm" that's currently projected to make landfall on the East Coast as soon as Monday is already having ramifications on the campaign trail, and could pose new, unexpected challenges to the candidates in the final sprint toward Election Day.

Mitt Romney's campaign has already canceled a Sunday evening event in Virginia Beach, citing the forecast showing outer bands of Hurricane Sandy beginning to throw rain on the region this weekend. A Joe Biden event slated to take place in the same city on Saturday was similarly canceled, as was an event featuring first lady Michelle Obama that was scheduled for Tuesday at the University of New Hampshire.

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“We're monitoring the situation and have contingency plans. Obviously people’s safety is our number one concern," a campaign official for Romney said.

Obama's team is "closely monitoring the storm and will take all necessary precautions to make sure our staff and volunteers are safe," according to campaign spokesman Adam Fetcher.

"Our historic grassroots organization continues to run at full speed in Eastern battleground states to persuade undecided voters and get our supporters out to the polls between now and Election Day," Fetcher said.

The U.S. target area for the storm is hard to predict at this point. Some landfall computer models show the storm striking somewhere between Washington and Boston - some of the most densely populated areas of the country.

Worst case, Sandy could merge with a strong cold front from the west. The double threat could morph into a "superstorm" that could sit over New England for days, making untold trouble for millions of residents.

The campaigns have already begun mapping out their travel plans next week, an intricate calculus for organizations focused on nabbing the 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency.

On Monday Obama is scheduled to head to Ohio, Florida and Virginia with former President Bill Clinton, returning to Washington in the evening. Those events were still on, as of Friday afternoon.

Teams of staffers and volunteers are also poised for final stretch get-out-the-vote plans in the key states, efforts that usually involve walking door to door to reach undecided voters. Those efforts would similarly be impacted by severe weather.

In Virginia, the effects of a major storm could linger until Election Day. Hundreds of thousands of customers in Northern Virginia lost power for more than week following Hurricane Irene in August 2011, and clean up efforts could be prioritized over making the trip to the polls. Virginia offers early absentee voting only with an excuse, unlike other states which offer less restrictive ways to cast ballots before November 6. That means the race in the commonwealth will be won or lost on Election Day.

North Carolina and Maryland, two other states in the storm's projected path, offer in-person early voting, which has benefited Democrats in the past. Martin O'Malley, Maryland's Democratic governor, said Friday that early voting in his state could be affected by the storm.

In Delaware, New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island, residents only have the option of voting early by mail.

While Obama and Romney have a host of battlegrounds states to visit that are out of the storm's path – including Colorado, Iowa and Ohio – the consequences of a major storm would echo beyond mere logistics. A hurricane hitting the most densely populated section of the country would also suck media coverage from the campaign, as television networks and newspapers deploy resources to cover weather rather than politics.

It could also provide a contrast between the two candidates – one who is a sitting president, and one who wants to become one.

A strong leadership image of Obama making official tours of affected areas could boost his image in the eyes of voters; conversely, any missteps in the administration's response to the potential disaster could have damaging results.

Romney also faces opportunities and pitfalls. His response, like Obama's, will be closely monitored and evaluated for its tone. Rivals will be ready to pounce at any sign of politicization, while the candidate will also be able to bolster his image of a leader by making visits to damaged areas.

Romney made such a visit to New Orleans following Hurricane Isaac, the storm that forced organizers to cancel the first day of the Republican convention in August. That visit didn't generate any negative headlines for the candidate.

CNN's Jim Acosta contributed to this report.

Filed under: 2012 • Mitt Romney • President Obama • Virginia
soundoff (13 Responses)
  1. I Voted Early In NC

    I pray this storm does not make landfall on the east coast not for the sake of politics but for the sake of our fellow citizens. The Red Cross as well as our electric companies are already preparing to respond if needed. The safety and well being of our fellow Americans is always first. When Hurricane Hugo hit in our area in 1989 it was neighbor helping neighbor that is what we do for each other in this country.

    October 26, 2012 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  2. GetSmartUSA

    And the GOP still thinks global warming is a fabrication and money spent on green energy research is a waste? How much coal and oil money compares to the human lives and economic catastrophes resulting from these avoidable natural disasters? But because many voters is too lazy to research, they fall for the GOP's "drill baby drill" in exchange for these disasters. God please, open their eyes.

    October 26, 2012 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |

    Willard, every time you come to VA, it rains. That should be a sign. Stay out of VA!!!

    October 26, 2012 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  4. Al-NY,NY

    It isn't that much different than when Flip Flopney and Eddie Munster go anywhere....the wind that comes out of their mouths is enough to do almost as much damage as a hurricane

    October 26, 2012 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  5. Dave Jaipersaud

    Just wait. Romney/Ryan and the rest of the Republicans will find a way to blame Obama for this storm.

    October 26, 2012 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  6. BinaryTooth

    Obama is praying for it to hit New York city so he can put on his act for the cameras. All right Mr. DeMille, Obama is ready for his close-up.

    October 26, 2012 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |

    governor romney and paul ryan will be there –not to profile to get votes - but because they have true heart.

    October 26, 2012 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  8. Frank

    If wishful thinking counted as votes then Obama will surely win. If one is engaged in reality, however, Romney has the presidency without a doubt.. Obama is so desparate that his true personality is coming out. The shuck and jive routine is no longer working. He's becoming more militant and less classy by the day. His language and behavior is unbecoming of the office. It's all backfiring and all they can say is "we're winning" despite all the evidence to the contrary. They subscribe to the notion that if you repeat a lie often enough then people will regard it as the truth. Straignt out of the Sovietsky system. It's all for show. He got caught lying about Libya and now he's obfusgating and yelling victory – basically doing anything to distract us from the real issues. Don't worry folks, Romney will fix everything. President Romney rolls off the tongue doesn't it? Get used to it, Obama fans. Get used to it, LOL. The house of cards is falling and the hyena will no longer have anything to laugh about. The emporer is naked folks – and his name is Abu Hussein. Go ahead CNN moderators. Try publishing a comment that reflects reality and not wishful thinking like you groupies are used to...

    October 26, 2012 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |

    I'm sure this storm is Bush's fault.

    October 26, 2012 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  10. Last chance for Obama . . .

    to show America his leadership skills before the election

    October 26, 2012 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |

    Governor Romney needs to embrace conerns of the afro-american community in his remaining campaign - make EVERYONE –white, black, latino, red and blue - feel they will be warmly welcome and embraced tightly as the 100% enter his vision for a "bigger and better" america.

    October 26, 2012 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  12. Archer

    wonder if this storm and its location its going to IMPACT has anything to do with the Corruption that is currently taken residence at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave...... you cant 'lie' and get away with it.. they will soon catch up to u... and He that Inhabits Eternity 'knows' all about it! America you better wake up!

    October 26, 2012 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  13. Al-NY,NY


    Governor Romney needs to embrace conerns of the afro-american community in his remaining campaign – make EVERYONE –white, black, latino, red and blue – feel they will be warmly welcome and embraced tightly as the 100% enter his vision for a "bigger and better" america.

    Now back to reality. RED has his little fantasy trip but now it's time to face facts. Flip would NOT care about half the popluation and instead enact his theocratic, voodoo-economics drivel on the USA

    October 26, 2012 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |