How does Hurricane Sandy affect battleground states?

800 AM EDT MON OCT 29 2012
…EXPECTED TO BRING LIFE-THREATENING STORM SURGE AND COASTAL
HURRICANE WINDS PLUS HEAVY APPALACHIAN SNOWS

“The center is expected to reach the coast Monday evening and make landfall between 8 p.m. and 2 a.m. on the Delmarva Peninsula — an area occupied by parts of Delaware, Maryland and Virginia — or Jersey Shore.”

Hurricane Sandy has already claimed at least 67 lives as she has stormed through the Carribean. I feel a little insensitive focusing on what Sandy will do to the presidential election of the United States. But here I go.

At the time I am writing this, 8AM Central Time October 29, Obama has a 74.6% chance of winning a 2nd term, according to Nate Silver.* However Obama’s campaigning has been disrupted by the storm, pulling him off the campaign trail and into the oval office for his role in crisis management.

Additionally, the storm will impact several battleground states. The storm looks to be heading into Pennsylvania, and it looks like Ohio will get hit by the edge of the storm as well as Virginia. The storm has a strong chance of coming into contact with New Hampshire but it’s further down the projected hurricane path than other states are.

Ohio expects to suffer the worst it will see of Sandy tonight through Tuesday afternoon. In Cleveland, “40 to 45 mph and overwash will continue Tuesday night into Wednesday. Sandy is forecast to weaken slowly after moving inland from New Jersey over Pennsylvania and New York state…”

As the storm comes in, “higher gusts to 60 mph are possible over the open water, along the immediate lakeshore and between buildings….
Even miles inland, wind gusts will be strong enough to down tree limbs, power lines and entire trees. Be alert for flying debris, as loose items will become airborne.”

Whether the states hit get severe damage or mild, the storm will impact:
-ability to vote early
-ability to vote Nov 6 if damage to roads, electric poles, communication towers is severe
-media focus: it will pull news attention toward the storm and not the elections especially where the hurricane’s impact is worst.

Right now Virginia and New Hampshire are considered “toss up”s by NYTimes .

In VA, 14 counties are under a blizzard warning Monday due to Hurricane Sandy colliding with another winter storm.

According to Wunderground Virginia could experience a 2 to 4 feet of surge on top of tides at the coast and winds will gust up to 60 mph at times. Rain will be widespread – from 3 – 6 inches and power outages are likely.

Pennsylvania is now considered a “safe” state for Obama in Nate Silver’s opinion, with a 95% chance of giving its electoral votes to the President.
Still, Obama may have been thinking of focusing on PA given that a Philadelphia Enquirer poll “put the president below 49 percent support in the state.” [source-The Hill]

He’ll undoubtedly be putting more attention on PA with rapid assistance to storm damaged areas and immediate visits following the storm – a pragmatic response that just happens to lend him added visibility. Michelle Obama was already scheduled to be in PA today and VP Biden is to be there Thursday.

The Deciders and the Importance of November 3rd – 6th in Ohio

If storm damage does not disrupt Ohio’s Nov 3-6 voting, then the election is at least on an even keel (if you can ever say such a thing about any presidential campaign or election in Ohio).

Here’s the ranking that Nate Silver of NYTimes gives to each state based on the probability that its electoral votes will decide the presidential election:
1 Ohio 48.1%
2 Va. 13.5%
3 Wis. 8.1%
4 Nev. 7.6%
5 Colo. 6.4%

At the moment Ohio has a 75% chance of handing over its electoral votes to Obama according to Nate Silver. Even if Ohio suffers only a couple downed trees from Hurricane Sandy, Obama would be wise to make a visit to those trees.

I noticed that much is being made at the moment about early voting in Ohio. In a weekend article Adrian Gray, formerly of RNC, says that “220,000 fewer Democrats have voted early in Ohio compared with 2008. And 30,000 more Republicans have cast their ballots compared with four years ago”.

Interesting.

Meanwhile, according to TIME, “Obama has clearly received a boost from Ohio’s early voting period, which began on Oct. 2 and runs through November 5. Among respondents who say they have already voted, Obama holds a two-to-one lead over Romney, 60% to 30%.”

We’ll really need to let next weekend come. According to the US Census, in 2008, a higher percentage of black voters turned out than white voters in Ohio for the first time that year and according to HuffPo “weekend voting helped 93,000 Ohioans cast ballots in the final three days before the 2008 election”. Of those early in-person voters, 56% were black. I guess I feel obligated to state the obvious: black people aren’t too hip for Romney.

That weekend vote is still in operation this year despite some earlier drama when weekend voting was cancelled by the GOP Ohio Secretary of State with his added comment to a newspaper that
“I guess I really actually feel we shouldn’t contort the voting process to accommodate the urban — read African-American — voter-turnout machine.”

The Obama administration subsequently sued and a federal court ruled in favor of restoring the weekend vote. It should be noted that two Dem. election officials fired by S.O.S. Husted for proposing that Montgomery Co., OH be allowed to vote on weekends are still fired: Dennis Lieberman and Tom Ritchie.

Footnote on Ohio Vote Machines:
About that story about Tagg owning the voting machines in Ohio. Check it out: Snopes says that is false.

Some stuff you might want to look at:
State-by-State Guide to Hurricane Sandy

2012 U.S. Electorate Looks Like 2008

*I’m apt to trust Silver based on the fact that he got into predicting elections by way of being a winning poker player rather than by being a political hack. I’m also apt to trust Silver because he’s often correct.

On background:
“Silver’s backstory reads like a quirky screenplay. While working as a transfer pricing consultant who helped companies minimize tax exposure from overseas investments, he spent his evenings and weekends perfecting an ingenious computer system for evaluating baseball players’ stats, which outperformed the analyses of many experts. A company running an Internet site for Rotisserie League fans bought his system. Silver used the money to stake himself as a full-time online poker player, quickly earning $400,000. Shortly thereafter, congressional grandstanding before the 2006 midterm elections stifled the online poker business with regulations, leading the best professional players, deprived of the overconfident amateurs they had been feasting on, to go after players like Silver. He lost $130,000. So he turned to politics, attempting to predict the partisan composition of the next Congress to help him decide whether to cut his losses and move on from poker. Thus was born the sideline that became fivethirtyeight.com.”

On accuracy of predictions:
“The accuracy of his November 2008 presidential election predictions—he correctly predicted the winner of 49 of the 50 states—won Silver further attention and commendation. The only state he missed was Indiana, which went for Barack Obama by 1%. He also correctly predicted the winner of all 35 Senate races that year.”-wikipedia

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