Hurricane Sandy Is A Real Election Buzzkill

The storm is putting our politics on hold.

If you’re tired of hearing “… and I approved this message,” then Hurricane Sandy has a small, small silver lining – it’s putting next week’s election on the back burner. Both the presidential and Massachusetts Senate races have to take into account the fact that an event far more newsworthy is keeping the attention of the electorate in the campaign’s final days. Mitt Romney and Barack Obama have cancelled events, and Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren are suspending their campaigns for the moment.

Over on Politico, Jonathan Allen is weighing a variety of ways the storm could affect the presidential race. Voters without power can’t watch television commercials, for instance, which affects ad strategy. The disaster could shift the story away from Mitt Romney’s growing popularity and instead show the President in a flattering light as he deals with storm fallout. But if the disaster is particularly acute or the government’s reaction is inept, it could hurt the President. The Globe‘s Callum Borchers notes that it forces both candidates to sound a bit more bipartisan and conciliatory than they might otherwise.

Meanwhile, Stonehill College political scientist Peter Ubertaccio writes that similar dynamics will impact the Senate race between Warren and Brown:

The Massachusetts Senate race also takes a back seat this week, depriving the candidates of a clear shot at making an uninterrupted closing argument.  Indeed, we’ll be seeing more of the Governor than the Senate candidates.  And overt political attacks (a staple of close races in the waning days) will be viewed as unseemly during an extended natural disaster.

This seems like a boon to Warren, who is running ahead of Brown in most polls. The Real Clear Politics summary of polls puts her almost 6 points ahead. That means she benefits from a general freeze in the current state of affairs.

Brown and Warren have their final debate scheduled for Tuesday night, and at least for now, that remains unchanged. Though, again, when the candidates have already faced off three times and there’s storm aftermath to follow, it seems unlikely that even a debate will really capture the news. (If only we’d had the entire past two years to pay attention to politics. Oh right, we have.)