In case you aren’t familiar with the term, an ‘October Surprise’ refers to breaking news that is released within the month leading up to a presidential election, and released with the intent to surprise voters and influence those undecided. Typically an October Surprise refers to a personal secret about a candidate that is leaked with the intent to question their character, and hurt their votes, such as a drunk driving record or past discretions. Very seldom do the claims result in a significant enough number of votes to swing a presidential election, but they have certainly changed public opinion. Less seldom does a major news story come to fruition within the month before an election, such as the Iranian hostage situation in 1980. But when it does, it can swing votes such as the aforementioned 1980 election for Reagan, or the continuing battle with Bin Laden, and his October press release, that perceived to lock up the 2004 election for Bush. Never before has mother nature made a footprint of this magnitude during this time of year, let alone the week before a presidential election.
There is no telling in which direction, or to what extent Hurricane Sandy will affect the 2012 presidential election, but it is certain to have an impact. There are dumpsters floating down streets in New York City, and people still trapped in their homes that may not be able to vote come Tuesday; that is if their local voting venues are even open. For a state with the 3rd most electoral college votes (tied with Florida), it is crucial that its voting numbers are met. Even more drastic and larger scale is the current state of affairs in New Jersey. Entire communities are devastated by flooding, which means not only are the residents having a difficult time getting down the street, but polling locations will certainly be closed. New Jersey’s outspoken Governor Christie has even publicly declared that he ‘doesn’t give a damn about the election’, due to the state of emergency in his state.
The case of New Jersey is an extreme but indicative example of the impact Hurricane Sandy is having on this election. Whether the topic is accessibility of voting locations, availability of voters, the lack of last-minute campaigning that can be done or the fact that there are other more pertinent priorities than the election, this Presidential election will go down in history. 2012 being an historical election already seemed imminent given the tightness of the race, but now it is guaranteed to go down in history because either the election will be delayed, voter turnout will be down in large Northeastern markets, or votes will be turned by actions taken by the candidates amidst the chaos. Regardless, Mother Nature’s October Surprise will be on the forefront of people’s minds when they think of the 2012 election.