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October 29, 2012 9:07 AM Sandy Hits the Landscape

By Ed Kilgore

It’s obviously impossible to judge the physical and economic—must less the psychological and political—effect of an event like Sandy. But pundits have their jobs and their obsessions, and such a wild card hitting the table so close to the end of an intensely competitive cycle is bound to produce a major freakout among those who thought they knew it all, particularly if they live where they might themselves be without access to their usual information sources for a few days.

One frequently asked question about the impact of Sandy does have something of an answer, as Politico’s Jonathan Allen notes this morning:

Most of the states in Sandy’s path don’t have early voting, except of the absentee-ballot variety. Maryland, a state Obama is expected to win easily, has closed its early-voting program on Monday. Virginia allows absentee voting in person ahead of Election Day, but only for residents who meet certain criteria. States that don’t let folks cast ballots in person before Election Day include several that are expected to be the most heavily affected by Sandy: Delaware, Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey.

A less tangible but probably more important question involves how people going to the polls will react to Sandy and its handling by the federal government, and not just in the area most affected. If handled relatively well, natural disasters can serve as a reminder that government exists to help people do things they can’t do on their own, and who knows? Maybe a few will have second thoughts about those dismissals of climate change one of the two major parties has largely embraced. And obviously a poor federal response wouldn’t help Barack Obama overcome claims he’s “in over his head.”

The one thing we’re hearing that I don’t take seriously as a potential political consequence of Sandy is reflected in this question from Allen: “Will Mitt Romney’s momentum be stopped?”

I don’t much believe there is any such thing as “momentum” in a close presidential contest, and even if it theoretically exists, it’s not clear Mitt Romney has it. So I hope no one spends much time looking for answers to such a double-loaded question that will soon be swept away by actual events.

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.

Comments

  • Bo on October 29, 2012 9:15 AM:

    For his part, I understand that Doogie Hauser Ryan is leaving the campaign trail to return to Washington DC in a last-minute attempt to pass his bill dissolving FEMA and privatizing national emergency response efforts before the requests for assistance start rolling in.

  • Anonymous on October 29, 2012 9:29 AM:

    As Sam Wang has pointed out, Ro-Mentum is a media fabrication. Any pundit still talking about momentum should be laughed at and promptly ignored.

    Even more so than previous, this election is showing why innumerate pundits are useless in a world of Sam Wang and Nate Silver.

  • schtick on October 29, 2012 9:37 AM:

    Seeing that Willard wants to do away with FEMA as he stated in one of the debates, it might make an impression on people hit with the bad weather from Sandy. I hope so.
    I expect to lose power if it gets bad. We seem to lose power when we have bad weather, but not usually for long. Losing cable and/or internet will be a minus, but I expect it. As long as no one gets hurt, we can rebuild/repair the rest.
    So far, it's getting windy in upstate NY. To all in Sandy's path today, stay safe.

  • Paul Dirks on October 29, 2012 9:55 AM:

    Good to know that 'having momentum' and 'steadily eroding' are now synonymous .

  • Th on October 29, 2012 9:59 AM:

    I look forward to FOX News personalities being rescued by FEMA all the while disparaging the response to Sandy live on air.

  • Fr33d0m on October 29, 2012 10:05 AM:

    To the extent Willard has any momentum, its in the wrong direction if he wants to win.

  • mudwall jackson on October 29, 2012 11:47 AM:

    "A less tangible but probably more important question involves how people going to the polls will react to Sandy and its handling by the federal government, and not just in the area most affected. If handled relatively well, natural disasters can serve as a reminder that government exists to help people do things they canít do on their own, and who knows?"

    in 2004, florida was hit by five, count 'em, five hurricanes. jeb bush was governor at the time and the state responded efficiently and effectively. i have no idea the effect this had on voters but my guess it did nothing to hurt brother george's reelection efforts in an extremely tight race.

    the man who headed florida's division of emergency management at the time was w. craig fugate. fugate's current job is head of FEMA. if the federal response to sandy is a factor in this year's election, i'd say obama is in good hands.

  • yellowdog on October 30, 2012 2:20 AM:

    Ah, yes, Politico. The great Charles Pierce calls it Tiger Beat on the Potomac for good reason.