MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Hurricane Sandy could impact up to 50 million people as it makes landfall, but it also has the potential to possibly change the course of the entire nation.
During every recent presidential campaign, both candidates try their best to steer clear of what’s known as the October surprise, a game changing event or revelation that can tip an election to either candidate.
In 2000, just days before the election a report was leaked that then-candidate George W. Bush had been arrested for drunk driving decades earlier. In 2004, a video of Osama bin Laden was released on October 29, again just days before the election. Obviously, not all October surprises are successful.
This year, the October surprise may not be a revelation about a candidates’ past, but rather the emergence of Hurricane Sandy as one of the worst storms the northeastern U.S. has faced in decades.
As of Monday, President Barack Obama and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney have suspended their respective campaigns. President Obama returned to Washington to lead the recovery efforts and Romney stopped his events out of respect for those impacted by Sandy.
With just eight days left in the campaign, stopping a campaign for almost anything is dangerous.
For Romney, it’s compounded by the fact that before Monday, he had gained ground on the President nationally.
For Obama, the storm presents a unique opportunity roughly a week away from the election to show leadership and help get the residents in the path of Sandy the relief they need before and after the storm passes.
Both campaigns are likely to stay out of the swing state of Virginia for the rest of the week to allow for recovery efforts to begin. Virginia has been tied in most recent polling, but over the weekend, the Washington Post released a poll giving Obama a four-point lead in the state.
With few chances left for the Romney campaign to make inroads in Virginia, the compressed schedule as a result from Hurricane Sandy could prove devastating in the election. In addition, it’s another lost day or days for the Romney campaign to not be able to go after the president on economic policy.
Romney may also come to regret what he said during the Republican primary when he argued Fema should be shutdown and sent back to the states or the private sector.
The move to head back to Washington for Obama is not a guaranteed winner either. Responding to a hurricane can be a very tricky situation for a president, as George W. Bush found out in the days after Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf coast.
In the presidential race, Obama leads in the majority of the states likely to be impacted by Sandy. The exceptions are the aforementioned Virginia and possibly New Hampshire.