, DAYTON, Ohio, Oct 30 – Super storm Sandy is a bona fide disaster impacting millions of Americans, but as floodwaters surge ashore one week from election day, a discomfiting political question emerges.
Which candidate stands to lose the most?
President Barack Obama is in office and the man at the helm. He could sink or swim on his handling of the federal response to such a serious crisis that has already claimed 13 US lives and caused millions in damage.
Mitt Romney, who aims to unseat Obama on November 6, has shown compassion for victims and has called on supporters to help fellow Americans in need, but with no official role in response operations risks appearing left out.
“Right now, with the storm making landfall and affecting as many as 50 million people, the priority has to be on safety and on relief efforts,” a Romney campaign official told AFP late Monday.
“And a lot of campaign decisions have to be made with that in mind.”
The White House offered similar declarations, stressing the “safety and security of Americans” was the top priority and acknowledging that two full days of campaigning could be lost due to the storm.
“We have to focus on not the campaign and not the election, but on making sure that all federal resources are both prepositioned and in place to help states and localities respond to the storm,” Obama spokesman Jay Carney said.
“We have to focus on not the campaign and not the election, but on making sure that all federal resources are both prepositioned and in place to help states and localities respond to the storm” – Jay Carney.
“That’s our focus right now.”
But there is an election to win and, with virtually everyone agreeing that the presidential race will go down to the wire, neither candidate will want to lose ground on the closing straight.
It will take some expert political cunning, however, to determine when and how to dart back out on the campaign trail full time without appearing callous or insensitive to the plight of storm victims.
Stumping for votes in Virginia when more than 170,000 customers are without power would hardly appear to be a winning strategy, and yet the state is one of the nation’s top three political battlegrounds, along with Florida and Ohio.
On Sunday, Obama advisor David Axelrod had worried publicly that the storm would dampen turnout in the early voting so vital to the president’s hopes in states like Virginia.