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The Campaign Spot

Election-driven news and views . . . by Jim Geraghty.

2012: Year of the Politically Ill-Timed Hurricane



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From the first Morning Jolt of Hurricane Week:

Programming  Notes: As long as Casa Geraghty in Yuppie Acres, Alexandria, Virginia, has electrical power and access to the Internet, the Jolt and Campaign Spot coverage will continue — presuming, of course, everyone else involved on the technical end of the newsletter and site have electrical power, too.  During “El Derecho” — Spanish for, “a brief, intense thunderstorm that gets local Washington residents even more furious with their electrical providers than usual” — we were spared while many in the D.C. went without power for days and days . . .

Sand-y in the Gears of Election 2012

Well, every bold prognosticator of this election cycle now has his excuse: “Everything in my projection/model was correct, but I couldn’t account for the effect of a major hurricane hitting the Northeast a week before Election Day.”

You could see this turning out to be a minor factor; localities will have about a week to clear the roads, get the power back on, etc., and it probably should be largely fixed by November 6.

But then again, you would have expected after the mess of the 2000 recount that Palm Beach County, Florida, would be extra careful to make sure it didn’t have any printing errors in their official ballots. Whoops.

Obviously, early voting is virtually suspended in all of the states experiencing hurricane-force winds, storm surges, etc. Depending on how bad the damage is, you could see some of the most casual, least-motivated voters not bothering to vote a week from Tuesday and focusing on repairing their houses. A few cycles ago, people used to joke that rainy weather was Republican weather; the Republican base was considered much more determined and reliable as voters than the Democrats’ base. And certainly, this year polls have indicated that Republican enthusiasm is off the charts and Democrats’ is down from the 2008 heights. (Apparently Obama’s television ads are sufficiently outrageous to boost Republican enthusiasm to vote against him.) But I think the Democratic base turns out more regularly than it used to and is probably at parity with the Republican one.

So if this lowers turnout a bit in states like Pennsylvania, Virginia and New Hampshire, the first guess would be that it’s bad news for Obama. But right now Romney’s on a (metaphorical) wave.

I’m far from a weather geek, but in my corner of the blogosphere and Twittersphere,  Brendan Loy is touted as one of the most intense and sharp analysts of all things meteorological. (His Twitter feed is here, his web site is here.)

I must say, reading his coverage of Sandy feels a bit like watching Jeff Goldblum playing a scientist in one of those something-goes-terribly-wrong movies, where he suddenly looks at a printout of data and begins excitedly and ominously rattling off a whole bunch of techno-babble – “the barometric nano-neo-pressure is dropping to 950 mega-mips! This means the counter-circular wind-speed is accelerating as the warmer air rises and energizes the accumulated precipitation to unsustainable levels!”

“God God, man, English! What does that mean?!?”

(whispering in shocked horror) “It’s . . . the Storm of the Millennium!”

The storm was a big topic on the Sunday shows, but this is one of those rare circumstances where strategists, consultants, talking heads, and lawmakers really don’t have any clue as to how this will play out.

On Sunday, politicos from both sides said it was still too early to tell how the storm would affect the race, but that access to voting centers would be a concern if effects from the storm persist until Election Day.

“I don’t think anybody really knows,” top Obama adviser David Axelrod said on CNN’s “State of the Union” about the potential political impact of Hurricane Sandy. “Obviously, we want unfettered access to the polls because we believe that the more people come out, the better we’re going to do, and so to the extent that it makes it harder, you know, that’s a source of concern. But I don’t know how all the politics will sort out.”

Virginia’s Republican governor said Sunday his state would take measures to ensure residents are able to vote, despite potential obstacles brought on by the storm.

“We’ll be ready, but we’re planning for contingencies if there’s still a problem,” Bob McDonnell said on “State of the Union.” He said his state would “absolutely” make polling centers such as schools and fire stations a top priority for restoring power should widespread outages occur.

Another Virginian, Democratic Sen. Mark Warner, predicted on Fox News the “storm will throw havoc into the race.”

We saw this in 2000 and for a few elections afterward; localities that either were poor or simply underfunded their elections process had machines breaking down, too few polling places, and so on, and then asked for extended voting hours. Of course, once you have polling places open in some places in a state but closed in other places . . . well, it seems like a formula for shenanigans.

In the meantime, if you’re in a low-lying area in the path of the storm, take a look at the National Weather Service in New Jersey offering some trademarked Garden State tact in this warning:

1. IF YOU ARE BEING ASKED TO EVACUATE A COASTAL LOCATION BY STATE AND LOCAL OFFICIALS, PLEASE DO SO.

2. IF YOU ARE RELUCTANT TO EVACUATE, AND YOU KNOW SOMEONE WHO RODE OUT THE `62 STORM ON THE BARRIER ISLANDS, ASK THEM IF THEY COULD DO IT AGAIN.

3. IF YOU ARE RELUCTANT, THINK ABOUT YOUR LOVED ONES, THINK ABOUT THE EMERGENCY RESPONDERS WHO WILL BE UNABLE TO REACH YOU WHEN YOU MAKE THE PANICKED PHONE CALL TO BE RESCUED, THINK ABOUT THE RESCUE/RECOVERY TEAMS WHO WILL RESCUE YOU IF YOU ARE INJURED OR RECOVER YOUR REMAINS IF YOU DO NOT SURVIVE.


Tags: Barack Obama , Advertising , Mitt Romney


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