Hurricane Sandy Shakes Up Campaign -- and Maybe Election, Too

The so-called "Frankenstorm" ravaging the East Coast is causing major changes to the final-week campaign strategies

Millions of people on the east coast of the U.S. know that this is no ordinary Monday morning, with Hurricane Sandy creating havoc across a huge area. And although the election is just over a week away, it's no ordinary morning for the presidential candidates either. Both President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney have been forced to make major changes to their campaign plans in the face of mother nature's fury.

President Obama ditched political campaigning Monday, canceling an event in Florida and hastily heading back to the nation's capital to manage the emergency response from the White House, according to The New York Times.

The so-called "Frankenstorm" had already necessitated a major shakeup on the calendar in these final days, with the president and Romney canceling events in Virginia and New Hampshire, among the critical battleground states. Despite the chaos wrought by the storm, Obama did fly to Orlando last night to attend a rally there this morning, but the potential for danger and size of the storm increased overnight. And so Air Force One was forced to leave early Monday to give it the best chance of getting out of there. Former President Bill Clinton served as stand-in for the president at the Orlando rally. A scheduled event in Wisconsin on Tuesday has also been cancelled.

Around noon Eastern time Monday, the Romney campaign announced it had canceled the candidate's scheduled event in Wisconsin Monday night and his entire schedule Tuesday. Initially, the campaign was planning to go ahead with that program of events.

Stakes are different for the challenger, however: He doesn't bear the same responsibility and expectation as a sitting president in the face of danger for millions of Americans.

But consider these other caveats: First, this could be a chance for Obama to look presidential and demonstrate strong leadership. Further, constant media coverage could make it tough for Romney to get his own messages through.

Amid the wrath of the storm -- which some have somberly joked is itself the campaigns' "October surprise" potential game changer -- there are questions as to whether the weather event might change not just the campaign efforts but indeed potentially also the results of the election. According to a Washington Times poll, 25 percent think it's a possibility; 67 percent think it's not.

For one thing, we may see a reduction in the number of polls in the coming days, according to a New York Times analysis, or a hit to their accuracy with some voters not able to be reached for comments.

Further, some analysts suggest the storm could reduce turnout along the Eastern Seaboard on Election Day, and those are left-leaning areas. So while this could reduce Obama's popular vote, it's not likely to affect the electoral vote count there. Of course, there are so many complexities and unknowns related to all of these theories, it's still anyone's guess.

Here's what we do know for sure: We want all of you to stay safe and dry out there!

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