Hurricane Sandy rudely interrupts American politics
There is something surreal about being in America amid the biggest shutdown since 9/11. The 24-hour news channels are going full bore – making up for the lack of visible or tangible bore from the storm itself.
We landed last night in Denver Colorado – a state that was already “swinging” from the sheer force of the tightness of the presidential election race, before hurricane fears much further east began to rock the TV screens.
We went from the airport to the football stadium here where Barack Obama launched his 2008 bid for the White House amid his nomination at the Democrat convention. Then, he was nearly 10 per cent ahead. Today he might be 3 per cent or less in a state that leans Republican pretty strongly.
In the aftermath of the Denver Broncos’ 34 to 14 thrashing of the New Orleans Saints, I never met a more politically divided crowd as they swarmed out of the ground. Equal fervour for both Romney and Obama – although none as great as for the Broncos themselves.
Yet the very proximity of the vote a week tomorrow, with the hurricane swirling somewhere on the mid to upper east coast, is suddenly a massive factor in the final furlongs of the presidential race.
Which self-respecting candidate wants to be seen failing at such a moment? So, Governor Chris Christie of new Jersey has shut his Atlantic coastal state down – trains, planes all at a standstill. Millions of commuters are sitting at home, watching the weather guesswork on telly. Mayor Bloomberg in New York has Manhattan at a standstill and is evacuating the citizenry from “low-lying” parts.
In the meantime on those remorseless neo-hysterical news channels, un-buffeted correspondents on windless coasts, suffer endless repetitive strain injury regurgitating the enormity of what might or might not exactly happen.
So the candidates have shut down their email fundraising activity in those states fearing the worst – this in case more needy appeals need to be made for blood and money. It’s hard too for them to be seen “on the road” merely campaigning amid such fear. And the storm is forecast to be so big and so slow, that this could still the campaigns for days.
If the worst happens, both campaigns, Romney and Obama, are preparing for the statesmanlike declarations of hope and sympathy.
Hope has not meant so much since Obama first called for it last time around. Then it was for victory. Today it is for survival.
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