Does Hurricane Sandy have the potential to change the outcome of the US election?


Ewan Watt

It’s common for political pundits to overanalyse the impact of particular events on the US presidential race and Hurricane Sandy is no exception. But Sandy could potentially result in the closure of polling stations in key swing states, like North Carolina and Virginia, which may have a particular impact on early voting and in-person absentee voting. In this, Republicans could have an advantage in that they tend to cast their ballots on election day itself. The campaign schedule has also been heavily disrupted. President Obama has decamped to the White House, while Mitt Romney is calling for his supporters to donate to the Red Cross and to help run food banks in Ohio. Cynics say that both candidates are campaigning by not campaigning, but optics and tone are crucial – especially at the time of a national urgency.

Ewan Watt is a Washington, D.C.-based consultant.


Xenia Dormandy

Hurricane Sandy is unlikely to have a major effect on the outcome of the US election. While the extreme weather might reduce turnout in areas along the East Coast – like New York, Boston and Washington DC – it will not do so sufficiently or unevenly enough to turn any of these states from Democrat to Republican. Due to the nature of the US electoral system, Presidents are not elected on the popular vote, but by winning enough states in the electoral college. Therefore, while Sandy may reduce the overall popular vote for President Obama, it is unlikely to reduce the tally he will gain in the all-important college. Beyond the East Coast, the impact will be minimal. It looks as though it will once again be Ohio (which is likely to be unaffected by Sandy) that, as in previous years, will be the decider for who is the next President of the United States.

Xenia Dormandy is a senior fellow at Chatham House.