Could Hurricane Sandy affect election outcome? - My29 WFTC Minneapolis-St. Paul

Could Hurricane Sandy affect election outcome?

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As emergency crews along the eastern seaboard work to restore powers and clean up the mess Hurricane Sandy left behind, both candidates are canceling events in critical swing states.

There's no doubt that election officials are scrambling in the disaster-stricken states, but it's still anybody's guess as to what the back-up plan may be in places like New York City.

Yet, at a time when the campaign game involved an awful lot of name-calling and mudslinging, Sandy changed the rules and suspended both President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney's plans. Both camps are now leaving the stumping to their surrogates -- including visits from both former President Bill Clinton and vice presidential hopeful Paul Ryan in the Twin Cities metro area.

"Politics plays large in all responses to disasters such as this," said political science professor Kathryn Pearson.

With just one week before Election Day, both sides are adjusting to the winds of change. Obama has switched from "campaigner in chief" to commander in chief.

"I am not worried at this point about the impact on the election," he said. "I'm worried about the impact on our economy and on transportation."

Pearson says Sandy gives candidate Obama the perfect platform to showcase his leadership and be presidential, but it also puts pressure on him as an incumbent. Republicans would likely pounce on any mistake.

Yet, it is a delicate balance. If the Romney campaign was to attack the president for his administration's response, it could spell a disaster for his own presidential bid.

"I think that he is wise to refrain from attacking the president when the nation needs to be unified to really help those who are in need after this disaster," Pearson said.

So far, Romney has retooled his prescheduled political rally into a disaster relief event.

"It's part of the American spirit, the American way to help people in need. We have a lot of goods here, and I know there are more coming in. We're going to box 'em up," Romney said.

Yet, during a primary debate, Romney said he believes the Federal Emergency Management Agency should be dismantled and that the job of emergency management should be handled either at the state level or be privatized. Now, those are comments he may regret.

"The Federal Emergency Management Agency has been beefed up during Obama's four years as president, and so this gives him a platform to talk about this," Pearson said.

With just a week before Americans choose will be in charge over the next four years, Obama's most powerful campaign speech may be one he didn't have to make.

"There's no excuse for inaction at this point," Obama said. "I want every agency to lean forward and I want to make sure we get the resources where they're needed as quickly as possible."

So far, Obama's response has already earned some strong endorsements from at least one prominent Republican. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie personally thanked Obama on Twitter and has praised the president's response as "outstanding."

"The president was great last night," Christie said on Fox and Friends on Tuesday morning. "He said he would get it done. At 2 a.m., I got a call from FEMA to answer a couple of final questions and then he signed the declaration this morning. So, I have to give the president great credit. He's been on the phone with me three times in the last 24 hours. He has been very attentive, and anything that I've asked for, he's gotten to me. So, I thank the president publicly for that. He has done -- as far as I'm concerned -- a great job for New Jersey."

The storm is still affecting millions of East Coast residents, and it is unknown how the flooding and power outages may affect voter turnout. It would take an act of Congress to change the date of the election.

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