Political Animal


October 26, 2012 4:45 PM Best Laid Plans

By Ed Kilgore

I don’t want to obsess about Hurricane Sandy, but since its effects could become serious before I get back to blogging on Monday, just wanted to mention the ever-increasing probability that this storm will wreak political havoc as well as threatening life and property. Let me reiterate: the political effects are not as important as keeping Americans out of direct harm, but they could matter.

It’s hard, of course, to quantify the risks of Sandy’s political effects. The most obvious, of course, will be in terms of the massive distraction it will provide from political messaging and early voting activity in states ranging from Florida to Ohio to Maine—a distraction that continue right on up to Election Day in places where there is significant physical damage (or loss of life). Then there’s the possible impact, positive or negative, in perceptions of how well federal, state and local governments are performing in the emergency.

Power outages are very likely in the mid-Atlantic and Northeastern states, and could spread wider. As most people know from their own experience, such outages can last for a number of days if more pressing emergencies are present. Lost along with everything else would be tens of millions of dollars worth of political messages.

You get the idea: you can stare at polls and look at election forecasting models all you want, but this storm has just thrown a big question mark into everything we know about the cycle. As the New York Times put it in its usual understated way:

The storm is approaching in the middle of preparations for the presidential election on Nov. 6 and could disrupt plans for early voting in some areas, with unpredictable results. Mark McKinnon, a former media strategist for President George W. Bush who went on to found No Labels, a group promoting bipartisanship, said that the hurricane brought to the campaigns something they both dread: uncertainty.
“Campaigns are all about control,” he said. “So in the closing days, they fear any external events that could disrupt the game plan. Ain’t no leashes for Mother Nature.”

I doubt the Obama campaign had the weather in mind when it decided to put such an emphasis on getting people to vote as early as possible. But in some states, that might have been a smart bet. We’ll wait and see, and pray for the minimum peril.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • Northzax on October 26, 2012 4:58 PM:

    Well, really only one state that is really in play is likely to be affected (Virginia) and the great irony is that the areas still likely to be in bad shape in ten days are rural, coastal or mountains, republican strongholds in VA. So republicans who loath Government emergency response are in need of good responses to get their people to the polls. The further you get from blue Richmond and NoVa, the worse it's likely to be, and for longer. The more dependent people will be on government response, the more likely it is they will vote to eliminate it.

  • mellowjohn on October 26, 2012 5:45 PM:

    obviously, the chicago thugs pressured NOAA into cooking the weather to obama's advantage.

  • c u n d gulag on October 26, 2012 6:10 PM:

    For those of us in the NE, at least we can usually see these hurricanes, Noreaster's, blizzards coming.

    The Earth could open up any day at any hour in CA - NOT that I'm wishing for that!
    Better if there was a massive fault along the Mason-Dixon line.
    I don't mean that, really. REALLY!

  • rrk1 on October 26, 2012 6:18 PM:

    If this weather event is yet another one for the record books, no matter where it hits, perhaps there will be some very belated acknowledgement in this incredibly vapid presidential campaign of something the reality-based community calls "global climate change."

    And for those in the fundamentalist community who insist that god ordains everything, including rape, what sort of message is this if the worst damage is in the strongholds of low information, and gullible voters. Like West Virginia and the Appalachians?

  • has to be anonymous on October 26, 2012 6:39 PM:

    It just seems ironic. I often go to Virginia and South Carolina--the racism is so obvious and relentless.
    Despite the lure of the beach, I could never live there full time. I'd have no friends!
    It would be ironic if the storm caused Obama hater racists not to vote...just sayin'
    Every hurricane I tend to automatically think of the poor reponse in 2005 of George W Bush and FEMA animal handler Brownie...
    ...residual trauma, I guess, as they say.
    I will never forget the child on the streets of Lousiana--as the Bushies couldn't even drop bottled water or sandwiches to those suffering--televison showed the child shook his head and said "THIS IS RIDICULOUS."

  • has to be anoymous on October 26, 2012 7:14 PM:

  • Renai on October 26, 2012 9:00 PM:

    My sisters in Maine are prepared for Sandy, but they aren't prepared to be trapped indoors during a storm with Mitt's political ads.

    And WHY do I have to "stay up to date with Michelle Bachmann" ads on this website? Do you WAMO folks moonlight as Republicans, or something?

    Stay safe, ya'll! And GUND Gulag, the way things are going, if there was a fault at the Mason-Dixon line, it'd be the Northern side that fell into the ocean. /snark/

  • JoanneinDenver on October 27, 2012 10:46 PM:

    Why is President Obama leaving for Florida on Sunday to "escape" the storm.
    Is he crazy? He absolutely needs to be in the White House from Sunday on....to make absolutely sure that he knows what is going on and that he can tell the nation what is going on and what is being done.

    Who is advising Obama? Karl Rove?