In American Politics, there is a term known as the ‘October Surprise’ aka an unexpected event which has the power to swing an election in one candidates favour. This election cycle, it has sadly been Hurricane Sandy. Before the hurricane the candidates were neck and neck in the polls with the momentum being with the Romney Campaign. However Obama’s excellent handling of the hurricane’s aftermath has helped sway the momentum back to his campaign and he appears energised. This is perhaps enough to give Obama the electoral edge needed to keep him in the White House.
Obama’s response has been widely praised, most significantly from New Jersey Governor, Chris Christie and New York Mayor Michael Bloomerg, an Independent who was formerly a Republican. Bloomberg has even endorsed Obama in the Presidential race. This is emphasised by Bush’s widely criticised handling of Hurricane Katrina.Obama is the sort of person who is at his best dealing with a crisis.
As President, Obama had a crucial role to play in how the country responded to the hurricane. The hurricane allowed Obama to harness the full power and prestige of the presidency to cast himself as a strong Commander-in-Chief. Romney meanwhile had no official role to play and so was in a difficult position politically, with both candidates suspending their campaigns he was sidelined into helping to drum up support for the Red Cross.
At a time when many Americans are fed up with partisan politics, the aftermath enabled Obama to work in a bipartisan manner. Commentators have noted since the hurricane Obama has used the language of bipartisan consensus effectively for the first time in this campaign. The promise of bipartisan leadership launched Obama into the national consciousness in 2004, this of course now seems ironic in light of the increasing partisanship of American Politics. One of the most striking images of the last few days has been that of Democratic President Obama and Republican New Jersey Governor, Chris Christie coming together to survey the hurricane damage.
It is hard to prove what impact the hurricane will have on the election regardless of the outcome. Obama’s calm, measured response has been widely regarded as presidential. Coming this close to the election, it’s going to be on lots of people’s minds when they cast their ballots. Most significantly, it may impact voter-turnout with politics being the last thing on many people’s minds as they struggle to deal with the damage caused by the hurricane. In an election this close, how successful each party is in Getting Out The Vote will determine who occupies the White House come January.
See the Red Cross’ website to donate to their Hurricane Sandy disaster relief appeal.