What has been the impact of Hurricane Sandy on the presidential race?
It's too early to tell with any certainty, but one thing is clear ─ the whole question of economic leadership and stewardship of the country has been suspended while the nation's attention is riveted on the East Coast and on cleanup efforts.
The fact that Governor Chris Christie, a Republican from New Jersey, and President Obama have made common cause drives home─in ways that few could have thought possible a few days ago─the benefits of bipartisanship that Governor Romney himself has only recently begun to champion.
Put another way, the fact that the president─in real time, with real world challenges ─is demonstrating leadership can only be seen to rebound to his benefit. I wouldn't want to go too far in overstating the benefits of the hurricane to the President, but still, a narrative that had been developing that was negative to him has been arrested, if not changed.
To be sure, the campaign will begin again in earnest Thursday, and there's every reason to believe that voter attitudes will more likely than not return to where they were before the storm hit.
But that being said, President Obama has had two or three good economic days to buttress polls that had only been sinking.
The national polls, before the storm, had indicated that the race was a tie. The RealClearPolitics average shows the President less than 1 point behind Governor Romney, and the national polls being released daily have the Governor leading the vast majority of those surveys.
However, Wednesday, the swing states, particularly Iowa and Ohio, have shown 5 point advantages for President Obama in the recently released Quinnipiac polls, which only suggest the difficulty of the challenge facing Governor Romney. To be sure, the Midwest ─Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania ─have shown tighter polls, with the President's lead under 5 points, but it's much more likely than not that those states will, under current conditions, stay democratic.
The bottom line is that the President had a very, very narrow lead going into the storm, a lead that the storm almost certainly will only buttress.
This race is by no means decided─it is a cliffhanger to be sure─but the only way to see the events of the last three or four days is as a net positive for President Obama, and a continuing challenge for Governor Romney, who has not been clear on how best to respond to this national emergency.