According to Nate Silver, the President now has an 86% chance of winning reelection, thanks to leads in the battleground states and a growing lead in the polls for the popular vote (now at 50.6 vs. 48.5). Although Silver says there are plenty of other reasons that Obama has rebounded since his performance at the first debate, I have no doubt that the hurricane and its aftermath did play a part in Romney's recent slippage.
I live in New Jersey, which, along with New York City, suffered the worst damage in the storm. Thankfully for us here in Northern New Jersey, the worst we got was a lot of downed trees and power lines. Since the rain wasn't that bad, we were spared the flooding we got last year during Hurricane Irene. But as everyone knows by now, the Jersey Shore was virtually destroyed and will take a long time to rebuild.
The destruction in New York City and New Jersey brought an endorsement for President Obama from Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an Independent former Republican, who said he thought the president is best equipped to do something about climate change, which he said the storm made clear was an important issue.
And, even more importantly, Republican Governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie, who gave the keynote speech at Romney's convention, praised the President's response to the hurricane and accompanied him on a tour of the devastation at the Jersey Shore.
"Christie told news outlets that the president’s response had been 'outstanding,' said that coordinating with the administration had been 'wonderful,' and remarked that 'the president has been all over this and he deserves great credit.' He even told Fox News the president had done a 'great job for New Jersey' while staying above the fray about politics: 'I’ve got a job to do here in New Jersey that’s much bigger than presidential politics, and I could care less about any of that stuff.'"After receiving criticism from the Romney camp for his embrace of President Obama during the crisis, Christie reiterated his support for Romney but refused to back down on his praise for the President.
"'I'm a Republican, I've endorsed Mitt Romney and I support him. I intend to vote for him on Tuesday,'" Christie said. 'But the fact of the matter is that if the President of the United States comes here and he is willing to help my people, and he does it, then I'm going to say nice things about him because he's earned it.'"In the meantime, Romney didn't do himself any favors by cynically calling an already-planned campaign rally a "storm relief rally" and actually buying some of the "donations" that supporters then picked up to "donate" to hurricane victims. It also doesn't help that he ignored the fact that the Red Cross discourages physical donations and prefers monetary aid, as sorting and shipping actual goods just takes more time, when it is usually faster to use the money to buy goods from locations closer to the center of the crisis. (You can go here to donate to the Red Cross, by the way!)
Romney's campaign also shot itself in the foot by airing deceptive commercials in Ohio during this same time period that warned Jeep and General Motors were sending jobs to China. Both Chrysler (which owns Jeep) and GM emphatically denied the accuracy of the ads.
So the general public saw President Obama acting presidential, suspending his campaign to look at storm damage, putting politics aside and joining a Republican governor in commiserating over his state's losses, while his opponent was holding a storm disaster campaign photo op and airing commercials that people knew were lies. Romney supporters shouldn't wonder why their candidate has lost his momentum and President Obama is pulling ahead.
But nothing is certain yet, as Republican governors in Florida and Ohio are doing their darnedest to suppress the vote in their states by limiting early voting, making sure there are horrendously long lines to vote in the (mostly) Democratic areas of their states, and any other strategies they can come up with.
In contrast, Christie has tried to make it easier for those displaced by the storm in New Jersey to vote, by adding early voting opportunities at county clerks' offices, extending the ability to vote by email to all citizens of the state, and allowing people to vote using provisional ballots if they are currently staying in a location outside of their usual voting area.
I am no fan of Christie, but I am very impressed with his fairness and bipartisanship during this crisis. There are certainly a lot worse Republican governors - and the ones in Ohio and Florida come to mind.
This is a very close election and every vote counts. Be sure your voice is heard and go to the polls tomorrow, if you haven't already voted early or with an absentee ballot!