Hurricane Sandy has upended the presidential race, forcing both President Obama and Mitt Romney to virtually suspend their campaigns in the final week before Election Day. However, while Romney waits and watches, Obama has some actual governing to do, offering him a golden opportunity to show his leadership skills during a time of crisis. Indeed, Obama already appears to be reaping some political benefits. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a steadfast Romney supporter, has nothing but praise for Obama's storm response, says Meghasyam Mali at The Hill:
[Christie] praised President Obama’s work to help states battered by Hurricane Sandy as “outstanding” Tuesday, but cautioned that the recovery would be a prolonged effort...
“The federal government’s response has been great. I was on the phone at midnight again last night with the president, personally, he has expedited the designation of New Jersey as a major disaster area,” said Christie, in an interview with NBC’s Today...
In a separate interview with MSNBC’s Morning Joe, Christie added to the praise, saying that “the president has been all over this and deserves great credit.”
However, Christie noted that Hurricane Sandy has left areas in New Jersey and other states in disastrous disarray, which could entail a painful recovery. Millions of households are without power; extensive property damage remains to be assessed; and thousands have been evacuated, possibly entailing the distribution of emergency food, shelter, and medical supplies. Obama has already declared New Jersey and New York disaster areas, a move that formally releases federal emergency aid to the states. And that's where it gets tricky for Obama, says Jeff Bliss at Bloomberg:
A week before the Nov. 6 presidential election, the administration needs to show competence, said Matt Mayer, who was an official at the Department of Homeland Security under President George W. Bush.
“If there’s a major flub, it could play into the meme of the Obama administration’s reaction to crises,” he said, including the attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya that caused the death of the ambassador and three other Americans.
The obvious comparison of recent years is George W. Bush's botched response to Hurricane Katrina, one of the most enduring stains on his legacy. And compounding the problem for Obama is that he still has a re-election campaign to run, say Jerry Markon and Karen Tumulty at The Washington Post:
For Obama, the storm’s challenge is a delicate one: to function as an effective commander in chief while waging a fight for his political life — and to avoid being seen as placing politics over the needs of storm-damaged areas and their residents.