JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - There's not much that can eclipse a presidential election, but a mega-storm that practically covers the northeastern United States is something that could do it, and have a serious impact on voting
"The direct impact, like townships that are under water for a week or two and how that impacts actual voting sites," said UNF political science professor Michael Binder.
Dr. Binder said this storm may well be a boost for the Obama campaign.
"What does this do for a challenging candidate like Mitt Romney when Barack Obama is standing there as the leader during a time of crisis. Assuming this doesn't get botched like Katrina and people don't die by 100s. This is a situation that President Obama can come out looking good," said Binder.
How the campaign's react to the storm isn't the only way this storm impacts the election. It could impact the number of votes. Even in Florida, Supervisor of Elections Jerry Holland said the storm might affect the number of votes cast in Jacksonville.
"How many absentee ballots we might have sent to voters for our residents that are up there and with the airlines and limited flights. How many of those will be delayed getting back. That will be a concern if this storm lingers," said Jerry Holland.
During a press conference on Monday, President Obama didn't mention the campaign in his prepared remarks, and when he was asked how the storm might affect the election, he said he wasn't thinking along those lines. "I'm worried about the impact on families, and I'm worried about the impact on our first responders. I'm worried about the impact on our economy and on transportation," he said.
Romney went ahead with part of his campaign schedule, although he blended his appeal for political support with one for his backers to make a donation to the Red Cross or other relief agencies "in any way you can imagine to help those in harm's way."
"Do your very best to help," he implored as his aides spread the word he would cancel an evening appearance in Wisconsin and a full day of campaigning Tuesday because of the storm.
He received an update on federal storm response efforts in a phone call with the deputy director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other officials.
However, the campaign said Romney "believes that states should be in charge of emergency management in responding to storms and other natural disasters in their jurisdictions" and "are in the best position to aid affected individuals and communities and to direct resources and assistance to where they are needed most. This includes help from the federal government and FEMA."
Nearing the end of a brawl of a campaign, both Romney and the president said they hoped Americans would work together to help those in need - and an unscientific sample of voters said they liked what they were hearing.
According to the United States Elections Project at George Mason University, about 15 million ballots already have been cast, including 1.8 million in Florida and 1.5 million in North Carolina.
Democratic early voters so far outnumber Republicans in Ohio, Iowa, North Carolina and Nevada, while the reverse is true in Colorado. The two sides are at rough parity in Florida. No votes will be counted until Nov. 6.
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