Hurricane Sandy's Political Impact

With just one week until election day, Hurricane Sandy is already having an impact on political campaigns. If power outages last a week, the effects could still reverberate on election day itself.

Both President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney have suspended campaign activities as the Northeast braces for the storm.

With government shutdowns across the region, it also means that many early voting locations have temporarily shut down as well. Campaigns will have to curtail their door-to-door canvassing efforts. And news coverage that would normally be devoted to talking about the election will be spent talking about the storm.

In the presidential race, the swing states most affected by the storm are Virginia and New Hampshire. Pennsylvania is sometimes considered a swing state but most polls show it leaning to Obama.

Among U.S. Senate races, those considered toss-ups and in the path of the storm are Connecticut (Linda McMahon (R) vs. Chris Murphy (D)), Massachusetts (Elizabeth Warren (D) vs. Scott Brown (R)), and Virginia (George Allen (R) vs. Tim Kaine (D)).

With the presidential race essentially tied, even small changes to the electorate could influence the outcome. It is difficult to say, though, which political party is more advantaged by the storm, according to Peter Ubertaccio, associate professor and chair of the Department of Political Science & International Studies at Stonehill College, Easton, Mass.

In a Monday post for the MassPoliticsProfs blog, Ubertaccio wrote that "there is no good historical model for how a delay in voting might play out in a national, and quite close, election."

On the one hand, one might assume that in a disaster situation the advantage will go to the party with the most enthusiastic voters, which appears to be the Republican Party this year. On the other hand, the storm provides Obama with an opportunity to show presidential leadership as the White House coordinates with federal agencies and state governments to provide relief for those in need, which may place him in a more favorable light on election day.

As Ubertaccio writes, the impact is "unclear" and "is likely to be stalled momentum with a dose of confusion, two uncertain elements one week before we head to the polls."

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