New York, 29 October 2012
As waves and 100 mph winds batter the east coast of the United States, which candidate for the Presidency will benefit from Hurricane Sandy?
It may seem a trivial question while hundreds of thousands of homes are without power and the emergency services battle flooding and widespread destruction. But with just eight days to go until the election, the storm could be a game changer.
As America hunkers down and waits for the storm to pass, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney have been forced to put electioneering on hold. Events have been cancelled. Campaign schedules have been torn up. Speeches have been binned.
The hurricane is dominating the TV news, blasting the neck-and-neck race to the White House off air.
There has been much talk of an ‘October surprise’ this election year. Few thought it would take a meteorological form but it has pushed Romney into the background and thrust the President into the spotlight.
What Obama says and does over the coming days matters enormously.
If he handles the situation right, appears engaged, competent and caring, dispensing federal aid and assistance to repair the damage, then he could score a last minute public relations coup. This could translate into a significant bump in the polls.
If the government reaction is perceived to be slow and inefficient then it could hand the battle for the White House to the Republican challenger.
Ever since the Bush administration was tainted over the perceived slowness and incompetence of the federal government in tackling the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, President Obama has been determined not to be caught out by the weather.
So far the president’s reactions have shown a level-headed leader taking control at a time of national crisis.
At moments of uncertainty like this, the public tends to gravitate towards the devil they know.
It might seem unfair, but this act of God could play to Obama’s advantage.