We all know it's coming. The Republicans always need some way to de-legitimize Barack Obama, or any Democrat who wins the White House. Karl Rove previewed this line as early as Friday:
“If you hadn’t had the storm, there would have been more of a chance for the [Mitt] Romney campaign to talk about the deficit, the debt, the economy. There was a stutter in the campaign. When you have attention drawn away to somewhere else, to something else, it is not to his [Romney's] advantage,” Rove told The Washington Post.Haley Barbour whined, "The hurricane is what broke Romney's momentum." Romney insiders are offering similar stories, off the record of course. For more details, read the full article at the Atlantic titled:
(snip)“It’s the October surprise,” Rove said of Sandy. “For once, the October surprise was a real surprise.”
When Karl Rove and George W. Bush won a close election in 2004, of course, they earned a "man-date" and the media went right along.
Republicans Blame Sandy for Killing Romney's Momentum
And by the way, Paul Krugman made an excellent argument in his column today that the President's performance during Sandy earned him any bump he got, and that, more importantly, the storm reminded Americans of the differences in the two parties' approaches to the role of government.
This is coming. And that's why I was so pleased to see Nate Silver engage in some prophylactic pre-debunking of this claim. Nate looked at the numbers, which is of course what he does. Yes, Obama's numbers have risen in the days following the storm. However, he was already likely to have won the election when the storm hit (Nate had him at a 73% chance of winning an electoral college majority on October 29). Furthermore, the momentum was already on Obama's side at that point, as he had improved his numbers significantly over the previous two weeks.
Nate summarized his take as follows: "while the storm and the response to it may account for some of Mr. Obama’s gains, it assuredly does not reflect the whole of the story."
Nate offers a number of reasons why, in addition to Sandy, the President's numbers could have improved in the past 7 days:
Mr. Obama was adjudicated the winner of the second and third presidential debates in surveys of voters who watched them.Finally, Nate steps back and looks at the big picture:
The past month has brought a series of encouraging economic news, including strong jobs reports in October and last Friday.
The bounce in the polls that Mr. Romney received after the Denver debate may have been destined to fade in part, as polling bounces often do following political events like national conventions.
Democrats have an edge in early voting based on states that provide hard data about which party’s voters have turned out to cast ballots. Some voters who were originally rejected by the likely voter models that surveys apply may now be included if they say that they have already voted.
Both Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney have been running lots of advertisements, which could have some effect, especially in the swing states.
Mr. Obama’s voter-targeting operation may in fact be stronger than Mr. Romney’s and may have begun to show up in the polls.
Mr. Obama’s approval rating is at 49 or 50 percent in many surveys, a threshold that would ordinarily predict a narrow re-election for an incumbent.
Some elections “break” toward one or another candidate at the end as undecided voters tune in and begin to evaluate their decision.
If I had told you in January that Mr. Obama’s approval rating would have risen close to 50 percent by November, and that the unemployment rate would have dropped below 8 percent, you likely would have inferred that Mr. Obama was a favorite for re-election, with or without a hurricane and what was judged to be a strong response to it.Take a look at Nate's entire column. I was particularly pleased (as most of you will be), to see his mention of having moved Virginia more firmly into Obama's column, and his point that without Virginia, Romney has even less of chance of winning without Ohio (which, as any poll junkie knows, is even stronger for Obama than Virginia).
This is not to dismiss the effects of the hurricane entirely. But the fact that Mr. Obama’s rebound in the polls has been slow and steady, rather than sudden, would lend weight to some of these other ideas, even if they make for less dramatic narratives.
The larger point is that the battle to control the narrative never takes a break, even in the moment the election is announced. Republicans will try to say that Romney would have won without Sandy. Be confident in your reply. You've got data on your side.
More than that, however, is to argue that Sandy is exactly what elections should be about. We are deciding which candidate can deal with the real problems America will face. What's more relevant in answering that question than what we've faced the past seven days?
Let's get out there and re-elect this President, and give him the Congress we need!
PS-Please check out my new book Obama's America: A Transformative Vision of Our National Identity, published last month by Potomac Books, where I discuss Barack Obama's ideas on racial, ethnic, and national identity in detail, and contrast his inclusive vision to language coming from Mitt Romney, Rush Limbaugh and (some) others on the right. You can read a review by DailyKos's own Greg Dworkin here.