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Frankenstorm Could Determine Election Results

If Mitt Romney is elected President, many of his supporters will say it was God's will. Democrats will blame it on global warming. No matter what though, the weather is about to impact the election in a big way as Hurricane Sandy is about to join forces with a nor'easter and smash its way ashore sometime next week, probably making landfall between Virginia and Cape Cod. It is already an exceptionally large storm, so big that some meteorologists are calling it a "Frankenstorm" (named after a character in a Mary Shelley novel rather than the senator from Minnesota or the congressman from Massachusetts).

In the period before the election, it will impact the campaigns' ability to hold rallies in four swing states: New Hampshire, Virginia, North Carolina, and Ohio, although depending on the path the storm takes, Ohio may be spared in part. Of course, the candidates could avoid the storm altogether by campaigning in Iowa, Colorado, or sunny Nevada.

Since the country's media centers, New York and D.C. are likely to be hit badly, much attention will be given to the storm and much less to the campaigns, so it will be hard for any candidates to make last-minute appeals for votes.

It will also impact the campaign in a very different way. Candidate Obama will have to become President Obama and deal with managing federal help to the impacted areas. As George W. Bush discovered the hard way, ignoring a hurricane when people are suffering badly is bad for your public image. Obama could try to make the best of the situation by canceling all campaign appearances and working full time to try to help people who need help. Television images of him helping to move sandbags to protect the shoreline or going to a soup kitchen and helping to serve food when there are actually people there could be worth more than a few more speeches in Dayton or Cleveland. It provides an opportunity for him to show people he cares about them. He could even invite Romney to stop campaigning and come help him. If Romney were to refuse, he might look callous.

The other effect the storm will have on the election is on voting. In areas that get heavy rain or snow next week, people are not going to go out and vote. If there is flooding, loss of electric power, or lots of snow on the ground on election day, many voters will stay home. Naturally, there has already been a poll about this. A third of undecided voters said that rain or snow on election day would keep them from voting, with 27% of the Democrats and 20% of the Republicans planning to stay home. Already-decided voters are more likely to vote. The biggest roadblock that might keep voters from the polls is the possibility of icy roads. Extreme cold will also make it less likely people will want to stand in line for hours. On the other hand, severe weather may make the lines shorter.

Even if they make it to the polling places, people may have trouble voting in some cases. Electronic voting machines and optical scanners run on electricity and if there is no power, they won't work. Counties that use voting machines are probably looking for alternatives now. For counties that use paper ballots that are optically scanned, voters can still mark the ballots and they can be saved for scanning when the power comes back. This delays the reporting of the results but does not interfere with actual voting. Of course, voting is indoors. Without power, voting places may be dark if there are no or few windows there.

Yet another factor to consider is what a depressed turnout means. Normally, high turnouts are good for the Democrats and bad for the Republicans and vice versa. However, this year there is another effect: early voting. Obama is doing extremely well in the early voting, with many Republicans planning to vote on election day. If the weather prevents them from turning out, the early votes will represent a larger fraction of the total votes, which helps Obama.

In the longer run, a massive snafu on election day may make states that do not have early voting reconsider this and perhaps allow it in the future. Both campaigns are urging supporters to vote now, before the storm hits, but in some states where the election might be close, like Pennsylvania, there is no early voting.

In short, there is a lot of uncertainty now. If you live in a state that might be affected, or have friends or relatives who do, cast your vote now or get an absentee ballot if possible and spread the word.

Here is a good story in Roll Call about the effect of the storm on the election.

On a final weather-related note, the server for this site is located in upstate New York. If power is lost there, the site will probably be down until it returns.

As Many as 40 Percent of the Votes May Be Cast Early

More people are expected to beat the crowds and vote early than ever before. These votes may account for as much as 40% of the total vote, possibly even more if people on the East Coast suddenly decide to vote early, where possible, to avoid the possible consequences of Hurricane Sandy.

Among the 18% of registered voters who have already cast their ballots, Obama leads 54% to 39%, according to an Ipsos poll. Early voting in person is not available in all states, but early absentee-ballot voting is possible everywhere. In 2008, Democrats put a huge emphasis on getting voters to the polls early but Republicans did not. The Romney campaign learned from that and is also pushing early voting hard now.

Ohio Results May Not Be Known Until Nov. 17

The state of Ohio sent 1.43 million absentee ballots to voters who requested them. of these, 800,000 have not yet returned them. Any of these voters is free to show up on election day and vote in person. However, they will have to cast provisional ballots to allow time to check to see they didn't vote twice, once by absentee ballot and once in person. In 2008, Ohio had 207,000 provisional ballots and this year there could be many more--possibly more than the margin between Obama and Romney--so the provisional ballots will decide the election. Now here's the catch: under Ohio law, the provisional ballots may not be counted until Nov. 17, to give people who were not allowed to vote for some reason to get the problem resolved. If this scenario plays out, the country will remain in suspense for at least 10 days before the counting even starts and possibly longer if it takes several days and there are challenges.

Possible Key Players in the Election: Ginsberg and Bauer

There is a good chance that at least one state's election will end up in court, in which case both sides will release their legal beagles. Benjamin Ginsberg is the head of Mitt Romney's legal team and the person who will run the legal operation if there are challenges in one or more states. Ginsberg has been through all this before: he ran George W. Bush's legal operation in Florida in 2000. Obama's chief lawyer is Robert Bauer, a past White House counsel.

The two lawyers have met recently outside the courtroom. They were the ones who negotiated the detailed rules for the three presidential and one vice-presidential debates. Both have advised candidates for decades and have been on opposite sides of cases a number of times before.

Clinton Campaigning for--Clinton?

Bill Clinton never cared much for Barack Obama, starting when Obama defeated Hillary Clinton in the 2008 primaries. But this year he is campaigning his heart out for Obama. Not that it takes a lot to get him on the campaign trail, but he is working extremely hard and obviously wants Obama to win. Why? He is a keen strategist and knows the economy is improving and if Romney wins, he will take full credit for it, even though the improvement is already in the cards, So if Romney wins and Hillary decides to run in 2016, she will have to face an incumbent President in a good economy, a very difficult task. Bill would much rather have Obama win and it be an open seat in 2016. That situation might create a primary battle with Joe Biden and others, but that is probably an easier path back to the White House than facing a sitting President.

Democrat Proposes To Add New Members to the Electoral College

If Mitt Romney wins the popular vote but loses the electoral vote, there will be the usual proposal to abolish it, something the small states will veto immediately. Now Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY), has come up with a less radical proposal: give the winner of the national popular vote 29 electoral votes. This proposal, if passed by Congress and ratified by 3/4 of the states, would give candidates reason to campaign in California, Texas, and other states where the outcome is clear from the start. It would be a play for those 29 EVs. He didn't explain why he chosen 29 and not 35 or 22 or some other number, though.

Today's Presidential Polls

State Obama Romney   Start End Pollster
Colorado 47% 46%   Oct 23 Oct 25 Purple Strategies
Florida 46% 51%   Oct 22 Oct 24 Voter Survey Service
Florida 48% 50%   Oct 25 Oct 25 Rasmussen
Missouri 41% 54%   Oct 23 Oct 25 Mason Dixon
New Hampshire 49% 46%   Oct 23 Oct 25 New England College
New Mexico 53% 44%   Oct 23 Oct 24 PPP
Nevada 50% 46%   Oct 23 Oct 25 CallFire
New York 59% 35%   Oct 22 Oct 24 Siena Coll.
New York 62% 33%   Oct 23 Oct 25 SurveyUSA
Ohio 46% 44%   Oct 23 Oct 25 Purple Strategies
Ohio 49% 47%   Oct 23 Oct 25 ARG
Ohio 50% 46%   Oct 23 Oct 25 ORC International
Oklahoma 33% 58%   Oct 18 Oct 24 Sooner Poll
Virginia 47% 47%   Oct 23 Oct 25 Purple Strategies
Virginia 48% 48%   Oct 23 Oct 25 Zogby
Wisconsin 49% 49%   Oct 25 Oct 25 Rasmussen

Today's Senate Polls

State Democrat D % Republican R % I I % Start End Pollster
Florida Bill Nelson* 47% Connie McGillicuddy 44%     Oct 22 Oct 24 Mason Dixon
Massachusetts Elizabeth Warren 52% Scott Brown* 47%     Oct 25 Oct 25 Rasmussen
Missouri Claire McCaskill* 45% Todd Akin 43%     Oct 23 Oct 25 Mason Dixon
New Mexico Martin Heinrich 52% Heather Wilson 44%     Oct 23 Oct 24 PPP
New York Kirsten Gillibrand* 67% Wendy Long 24%     Oct 22 Oct 24 Siena Coll.
Pennsylvania Bob Casey* 46% Tom Smith 45%     Oct 24 Oct 24 Rasmussen
Virginia Tim Kaine 45% George Allen 45%     Oct 23 Oct 25 Zogby
Virginia Tim Kaine 49% George Allen 48%     Oct 24 Oct 24 Rasmussen

* Denotes incumbent