Hurricane Sandy has left leaving in its trail death and devastation. But in this election season it may play its part in the US even though both President Obama and Republican nominee Romney are working overtime so that people cannot blame them for politicking over Sandy.
“The storm is not over yet,” President Obama cautioned during a Tuesday afternoon visit to the headquarters of the Red Cross in Washington. “We’re going to continue to push as hard as we can” to provide resources, he added, before emphasizing that his message to his administration is “no bureaucracy, no red tape.”
The storm also calls attention to a dynamic that all incumbents face: how to balance being president while running for reelection. Rarely, if ever, has a president had to deal with such a major disaster so close to Election Day, and any misstep or move that appears politically motivated could cost Obama with voters.
For now, the president’s Chicago-based reelection team is exhibiting no urgency to return him to the campaign trail. The campaign canceled two rallies in Ohio on Wednesday, and one aide said Obama’s schedule is being determined by the president, along with White House advisers such as David Plouffe and Chief of Staff Jacob Lew.
This aide, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to talk frankly about internal strategy, suggested that at this point, the rallies are marginally helpful in getting supporters to vote, but that otherwise “the race is set.”
The storm thrust Romney in the almost impossible position of trying to write a role for himself in the story that has gripped the nation’s attention.
The GOP nominee held a relief event in Ohio to collect donations for storm victims, but the event had the trappings of a regular campaign rally, with the candidate’s standard theme music and biographical video. As Romney packed emergency supplies, he did not respond to reporters who asked whether he is reconsidering his earlier assertion that disaster management is a job that should be turned over to the states.
Obama’s performance could be viewed quite differently as federal relief efforts continue to play out. Whatever problems arise will largely be Obama’s to bear, just as Bush was blamed for Katrina.