The Sandy Factor

There is much discussion over whether Hurricane Sandy proved a decisive political asset for President Obama.  Chris Matthews of MSNBC certainly thinks so: “Good work for them, good work for him, a good day for America.  I???m so glad we had that storm last week because I think the storm was one of those things.  No, politically I should say, not in terms of hurting people.  The storm brought in possibilities for good politics.”

This is an extension of the “big storms prove you need Big Government” argument, which survives primarily because the media has no interest in reporting what Big Government has actually been up to in the areas hit by Hurricane Sandy.  The cameras were switched off after President Obama took off his bomber jacket.

But whether or not Sandy and its aftermath were decisive for the President, the effect was probably mostly felt in terms of blunting whatever momentum Mitt Romney had.  The forces at play in swing state electorates were most likely too powerful for Romney to overcome them no matter what, but in a status-quo type of election, an opportunity for the incumbent to look presidential and relevant is significant.  “Momentum” does matter in these contests, and it can prove very difficult to manage.  It’s more evidence that political narratives must be fully powered up and on-line much earlier than Team Romney’s strategy indicated.