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Will Sandy change the game for Obama and Romney?

US President Barack Obama has much to gain – and a lot more to lose – in his response to "super storm" Sandy, currently battering the US East Coast. Political analyst Larry Sabato tells FRANCE 24 what’s at stake.


reporting from Miami, Florida

"Super storm" Sandy, currently wreaking havoc across the East Coast of the USA, is blowing an uncomfortable wind of uncertainty into the US presidential campaign that threatens incumbent Barack Obama more than his Republican opponent Mitt Romney, says political analyst Larry Sabato.

And while the US authorities will be doing their utmost to deal with the social and economic fallout of such an unpredictable event, all eyes will be on the two candidates’ reactions.

Obama, who was due in Florida, a key swing state, on Monday, has returned to Washington to coordinate the response, while former Democrat President Bill Clinton has stepped into his campaigning shoes and will represent the president at a meeting in Orlando.

Romney meanwhile has cancelled campaign rallies in New Hampshire and Virginia, arriving instead in Ohio on Sunday, another vital swing state, and is due in battleground states Iowa and Wisconsin in the coming days.

Larry Sabato, head of University of Virgina’s Center for Politics, tells FRANCE 24 what’s at stake for the two candidates.

FRANCE 24: How could super storm Sandy impact President Obama's chances?

Larry Sabato: It’s the classic double-edged sword of governing. Obama can assume a take-charge posture as the incumbent president but he’s also responsible for all foul-ups in disaster relief. And you don’t want dissatisfied, surly people voting if you’re the incumbent. It all depends on how many people are truly affected in the aftermath and how quickly their needs can be met. My assumption is that the Obama team understands the stakes and is gearing up a massive rescue and relief effort, to the extent possible.

F24: What about Romney? How does this impact him in states he needs? Will his reaction be closely watched?

LS: For Romney, he’s left on the sidelines, expressing sympathy for victims, but he can make gestures such as encouraging contributions to disaster agencies. Of course, he benefits from lingering problems.

F24: What's the worst-case scenario for either of these candidates?

LS: For Obama, the worst-case scenario is that the lingering effects of the storm in Virginia hamper his ground game, helping Romney win a state where the momentum has already been trending the Republican’s way.

In pictures: 'SUPER STORM' Sandy batters US East Coast
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