The Campaign Spot

The 2012 Campaign, a Tale of Two Hurricanes

Jeff Dobbs looks at the numbers from Gallup, and concludes that if they’re right, almost 11 points of the electorate decided to vote for Obama based upon his response to Hurricane Sandy. Of course, some of that response is unlikely to be true,  as folks who otherwise would have voted for Obama simply cited the most recent reason they saw to vote for him.

But even if it’s one in three who are accurately assessing the factors in their vote, that’s 3.6 percentage points in the electorate.

What’s more, think back to the GOP convention in Tampa. The central message from the stage, aimed at Obama voters from 2008, was that it’s okay to vote against Obama this time around — trying to overcome the “sunk costs” theory, the hesitation to admit a particular previously selected approach has failed. Obama himself played to that instinct with the slogan, “We can’t turn back now.” Think of Clint Eastwood’s simple declaration, “When somebody doesn’t do the job, you’ve got to let them go.” Of course, that convention garnered a smaller audience than usual, in part because Hurricane Isaac forced the cancellation of the first night and because it provided another major story to compete for the public’s attention at that moment.

Clearly the electorate included a significant number of disappointed Obama voters who were wavering, and who were looking for an excuse to feel good about the president again, a reason that would justify a second vote. Hurricane Sandy provided that reason, just when Obama needed it.

Secondly, think about Romney’s closing argument, that he could end the partisan division; as a governor who had worked with a heavily Democratic state legislature, he could end the party warfare in Washington and get things done. And just as the late deciders tuned in, here was Obama looking buddy-buddy with Chris Christie in New Jersey, the GOP governor who had given the party’s keynote address. Sandy stepped on the closing message that only Romney could heal the partisan divide, while dominating news coverage and blocking out much other news.

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