Akron, Ohio: A looming “Frankenstorm” threw an October surprise into the US presidential contest yesterday as Barack Obama and Mitt Romney hunted for votes amid fears of major disruptions ahead of the
November 6 vote.
With a newly strengthened Hurricane Sandy now stalking the US East Coast, Romney and Vice President Joe Biden cancelled rallies in Virginia to get out of the way of the frantic storm preparations.
The president and his Republican rival were campaigning at opposite ends of the eastern seaboard yesterday — Obama in New Hampshire and Romney in Florida — while their campaigns kept an eagle’s eye on the coming storm.
Currently a category one hurricane, Sandy was forecast to ride slowly up the Atlantic coastline, bringing heavy rains and gusting winds to the Carolinas, before making landfall early this week somewhere between Virginia and New Jersey.
Forecasters predict the storm will collide with a seasonal “nor’easter,” creating a supercharged cold weather system that could burst through Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts and even as far inland as Ohio.
Huge tidal surges, power outages, inland flooding and even heavy snowfall could then be in store for what would be the final, frantic week of the US election campaign, adding a nasty twist to what already is a neck and neck race.
The White House said it was monitoring the storm closely, and Obama received a briefing on Friday from top emergency officials. Aside from the threat to tens of millions of residents, the storm could upend election-related preparations across several states, interfere with early voting and cause problems at polling stations. Both Obama and Romney were pushing supporters to vote early. So far, 10.5 million people have already cast their ballots, according to a count by experts at George Mason University near Washington.
That is about eight percent of all votes cast in 2008, and analysts said the early voting was on track to beat the record set in the last presidential elections when more than 30 percent of ballots were cast before election day.
Prospective voters have been deluged with calls from the rival campaigns, with 40 percent of voters in eight key battleground states contacted by the Obama camp and 35 percent by Romney’s get-out-the-vote operation, according to a Washington Post/ABC News survey published on Friday.
With just 10 days to go until Americans go to the polls, the candidates are readying cross-country travel blitzes to hammer home their well-worn messages.
The Republican nominee has tried to turn the tables on the 2008 Obama, billing himself as the hope-and-change candidate and the Democratic incumbent as representing the political “status quo.”
“The president’s campaign falls far short of the magnitude of the times. And the presidency of the last four years has fallen far short of the promises of his last campaign,” Romney told a crowd in Ames, Iowa.