The politicization of Hurricane Sandy happened instantly, because the election is next week. The candidates don't have time for a tasteful grace period. As we saw with the attacks on the American consulate in Benghazi, there is no event that can't be chewed up into crass horserace analysis. Sandy is just happening extra fast. Who has the most to gain from Sandy, President Obama or Mitt Romney? There are so many competing hypotheses it's hard to keep them straight. Here's our guide to them:
Helps Romney: Voters punish incumbents for natural disaster damage, political scientists Andrew Reeves and John T. Gasper found. Others agree: "The pretty strong pattern turns out to be that all other things being equal, the incumbent party does less well when it's too wet or too dry," Larry Bartels, a professor of political science at Vanderbilt University, told Mother Jones.
Helps Obama: Unless those incumbents respond effectively! Voters reward governors who ask for federal help, and they reward presidents who give it, Reeves and Gasper found.
Helps Romney: Obama cancelled a rally in Orlando Monday and one in Wisconsin Tuesday. Romney gets to keep up his campaign schedule, mostly. On Monday, he continued with plans for rallies in Ohio, Iowa, and Wisconsin, before canceling the Wisconsin one. Paul Ryan will hold one rally in Florida. Romney will hold a rally at the University of Miami Wednesday. He's also tweaked his message to reflect the storm, saying in an email to supporters, "I’m never prouder of America than when I see how we pull together in a crisis. There’s nothing that we can’t handle when we stand together." He spoke to the governors of New Jersey and Virginia about Sandy preparations.