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Sandy Shifts Attention to Local Leaders, Away From Presidential Race

The skyline of lower Manhattan sits in darkness Monday night after a preventive power outage. Photo by Eduardo Munoz/Reuters.

The Morning Line

Cars on 14th Street and Avenue C under water.

The largest public transportation system in the world shuttered.

5,700 flights canceled.

Nearly 7 million people across the East Coast in the dark.

And the final campaign push one week until Election Day? On hold.

As Hurricane Sandy barreled up the eastern United States before weakening, the super-storm left behind snow, downed power lines, flooding and a mounting death toll of more than a dozen.

Residents along the East Coast turned their attention from the presidential contest between Presdient Obama and Mitt Romney to state and local officials and the tensions brewing — or lessening — among them.

“The president has been outstanding,” New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said on NBC’s “Today Show” Tuesday morning. He’d been praising Mr. Obama through the duration of the storm, a shift from the campaign attack posture he’s held all year.

But the election didn’t completely disappear, with most of the candidates appearing at campaign rallies and keeping up their standard stump speeches. Tuesday’s events will have more of a storm focus, with both Mr. Obama and Vice President Biden unlikely to talk politics and both Romney’s wife Ann and his running mate Rep. Paul Ryan visiting campaign offices where they are collecting emergency supplies. Team Romney said the events were shifted because “of sensitivity to those in the storm’s path and to ensure the safety of those in the area.”

Any major disaster puts a spotlight on governing and the cost of disaster preparedness. Reporter Ryan Grim of the Huffington Post resurfaced video of Romney at a GOP primary debate where he criticized funding FEMA. But Romney’s campaign reiterated the former governor’s stance that states should lead emergency response management and that FEMA should not be abolished. (Politico notes that FEMA is flush with cash.)

While there are major questions about how polling places will be affected for this week’s early voting and Tuesday’s big show, at least one potential Sandy-related consequence was avoided. The Labor Department plans to release the October jobs report as scheduled on Friday, keeping in place what could be a defining final moment the election. The department originally hedged on Monday about releasing the report on time because of the storm.

Exploring this question, Slate’s John Dickerson dubbed Sandy “the most important woman in the swing states.”

He writes:

Evaluating the candidates now in a political context is part of evaluating them for the job they will hold. But there’s also a practical effect of the storm. It may hamper early voting, and it may limit the organization-building benefits of candidate visits.

The NewsHour is maintaining a robust live blog with the very latest, and Monday’s program took a look at how the storm had scrambled the campaign.

Judy Woodruff talked with USA Today’s Susan Page and the Washington Post’s Dan Balz about a new Pew Research Center poll of 1,678 registered voters that found Mr. Obama leading Romney, 47 percent to 45 percent. Among likely voters, the men are tied at 47 percent.

The survey found “Republicans becoming much more upbeat about the race and about Mitt Romney himself,” with more Romney voters now saying “they are voting for him rather than against Obama.”

The president still leads Romney on personal characteristics, Pew found. “Obama is seen as the candidate with more moderate positions on issues and as more willing to work with members of the other party. He also holds wide advantages on empathy and consistency,” according to Pew.

Balz noted the president had improved slightly in the Washington Post tracking poll out Monday night, with the men deadlocked nationally at 49 percent.

Watch the segment here or below:


Hari Sreenivasan took a deep dive for a special PBS Frontline report about how the campaigns are tracking you. The data collecting firm Hari visited wouldn’t show him his own profile, but they did reveal information they may collect — from the type of car you own to what sporting events you attend.

Watch part one of Hari’s report here or below:

Hari and Christina also chatted in a special edition of the Political Checklist. He admitted the data collection sort of freaks him out.

Watch here or below:

And speaking of Sasha Issenberg, his latest Slate column finds a major imbalance between the campaigns’ voter targeting efforts, with the president’s team holding a huge advantage:

In fact, when it comes to the use of voter data and analytics, the two sides appear to be as unmatched as they have ever been on a specific electioneering tactic in the modern campaign era. No party ever has ever had such a durable structural advantage over the other on polling, making television ads, or fundraising, for example. And the reason may be that the most important developments in how to analyze voter behavior has not emerged from within the political profession.

In part two of the Frontline report airing Tuesday, Hari travels to Columbus, Ohio.


Team Obama held a conference call Monday boasting its early voting figures and claiming it’s winning. “What we have been building for the past 18 months is working, it’s paying off and it’s one of the reasons we’re going to win this thing,” campaign manager Jim Messina told reporters.

Among the stats Messina and adviser David Axelrod rattled off: Mr. Obama leads in every group in Iowa early voting, with Democrats leading among those who have cast ballots.

“The Romney campaign thought that a bad economic report would be their final piece,” Messina said. “Romney is not where he wanted to be eight days out.”

But they admitted they will match a surprise ad buy from the pro-Romney super PAC Restore our Future in Pennsylvania. The Republican National Committee wrote on its website that it has a lead in absentee returns. “The Romney Victory team has been on the ground in Pennsylvania for months with over 60 staff and dozens of offices. We have made over 5 million volunteer voter contacts including over 1 million volunteer door knocks across Pennsylvania. That voter contact is paying off in the absentee ballot returns and clearly the President’s campaign sees it in their numbers,” the RNC wrote.

Romney Ohio state director Scott Jennings penned a memo boasting of “momentum” in the Buckeye State in “five key areas: polling, grassroots voter contact, newspaper endorsements, events, and early-voting statistics.” From the memo:

The state of the race in Ohio shows a dead heat, with Romney tracking toward victory on Election Day. The daydream Chicago was having a few weeks ago about Ohio coming off the board has been replaced by their nightmare of Romney momentum fueled by our ticket’s performance, our goal-shattering ground game, and an unmistakable feeling among independent voters that Barack Obama has no plan for the next four years.

Team Romney Ohio knocked on 669,534 doors over the last two weeks, and the crowds at Romney’s rallies have just been massive. We aren’t doing anything differently to promote the events; people are just organically showing up to see the next leader of the free world. The crowds know what is happening here, and so does Chicago. We can’t print walk books fast enough for people who want to elect a real leader to the White House.

In other battleground news, a new CNN poll of Florida’s likely voters found Romney leading Mr. Obama, 50 percent to 49 percent.


Tuesday’s tidbit from NewsHour partner Face the Facts USA uses an infographic to explain the Medicare “doc fix” that gets a lot of attention on Capitol Hill.

The nonpartisan organization writes: “If the ‘doc fix’ is not repeated, the reduced payments to Medicare doctors are expected to save $11 billion in fiscal 2013. If the override votes continue, it is expected to add $316 billion to the federal deficit over 10 years.”


  • The Washington Post notices that election lawyers are at the ready for both sides.
  • The Miami Herald chronicles the experience of Puerto Rican first-time voters in Florida, many of whom hadn’t cast ballots for president while living in the U.S. territory and belong to one of Florida’s pivotal and growing swing communities.
  • Team Obama released a response ad to the kerfuffle over Jeep. Watch.
  • Former President Bill Clinton will campaign for the Democratic ticket at three events Tuesday in Minnesota.
  • “Every child has the right to have a mother and a father,” Romney said in 2005. Talking Points Memo has the video that stands in contrast to what Romney has said this year about gay couples adopting.
  • A county in Colorado distributed ballots that accidentally rubbed against stickers that left a vote-like mark, reports the Denver Post.
  • The New York Times has some top ad executives examine the best ads of the season.
  • Bloomberg News reports that Romney used a tax loophole in the ’90s that allowed him to use the tax-exempt status of the Mormon Church without giving it much money.
  • This man is apparently a Romney fan for life.



  • Among other closures, federal government offices won’t open Tuesday and neither will the Supreme Court. Arguments scheduled for Tuesday are rescheduled for Thursday. Wednesday’s Supreme Court schedule, including hearing cases about drug-sniffing dogs and the constitutional right of search and seizure, remains unchanged.
  • The Hill reports that Sandy could also impact big Senate races Tuesday.
  • Roll Call’s Abby Livingston rounds up the campaigns urging their supporters to take down lawn signs so they don’t harm anyone during high winds.
  • New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s sign language interpreter, Lydia Calas received rave reviews on social media for describing the storm expressively.
  • Republican Rep. Allen West, who’s running in a close race in Florida, berated his Democratic tracker for filming him at a Vietnam Veterans War memorial event.
  • Missouri Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill’s mother has died.
  • The Einhorn Family Foundation bought billboards in Milwaukee announcing that voter fraud is a felony.
  • This is quite possibly the scariest ad of the political season.
  • The zombie deer makes a top 10 list.
  • National Journal’s Reid Wilson explains his analysis that concluded the GOP will keep control of the House next week. Why? Redistricting. From the story: “Top party officials plotted strategy with every state’s congressional delegation and worked closely with state legislatures to craft new maps that refashioned dozens of existing districts into safer Republican seats in states like Pennsylvania, Texas, Colorado, Ohio and Florida.”
  • Halloween is Wednesday. Go ahead, make a zombie political attack ad!

NewsHour politics desk assistant Geoffrey Lou Guray contributed to this report.


All events are listed in Eastern Time.

  • President Obama and Vice President Biden have no scheduled public events. The president is in Washington and the vice president is in Ohio and plans to fly to Florida.
  • Mitt Romney attends a “storm relief event” in Kettering, Ohio, at 11 a.m.
  • Paul Ryan will thank Wisconsin volunteers in La Crosse at 3:20 p.m. and in Hudson at 6:15 p.m.
  • Ann Romney also is in Wisconsin and will drop by the campaign office’s storm relief collection in Green Bay at 11:15 a.m., before dropping by the Davenport, Iowa, office at 2:25 p.m. and the Cedar Rapids, Iowa, office at 4:35 p.m. She will headline a rally in Des Moines at 7:20 p.m.

All future events can be found on our Political Calendar:

For more political coverage, visit our politics page.

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Questions or comments? Email Christina Bellantoni at cbellantoni-at-newshour-dot-org.

Follow the politics team on Twitter: @cbellantoni, @burlij, @elizsummers, @kpolantz, @indiefilmfan, @tiffanymullon, @dePeystah, @meenaganesan and @abbruns.

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