Notes of a Reporter at Large • 11-01-12 PDF  | Print |  E-mail
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Thursday, 01 November 2012 15:14

Stormy Politics

By Mel Lavine

Special to the Times

Has Hurricane Sandy made a significant impact on an election almost everyone has been saying was too close to call? Looking like a commander in chief, President Obama pledged the country’s help and told us early Monday before the monster storm struck, “I’m not worried about the election right now. I’m worried about families – ¦the election will take care of itself next week.”

Did the crisis hurt Mitt Romney? He said in a primary debate in the long ago that FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) should be done away with, and the job given to the states or privatized. On Monday he seemed to hold his ground saying the states “are first responders and are in the best position to aid impacted individuals and communities.”

A valid point, but, as David McCumber, a reporter for Hearst newspapers, pointed out in the San Francisco Chronicle, “Billions in federal aid are hard to substitute on the statewide level.” Romney said he was bringing relief supplies on the campaign bus. A pathetic sight was the picture of it that ran on the news.

It underscored the advantage of the presidency in a natural disaster. Except, of course, in screw ups like Katrina.

I spoke to friends in Manhattan on Monday night. One had been busy bringing in furniture from his balcony and seeing about food supplies. People had been told to expect power outages for several days. He didn’t sound worried; concerned, yes, but not worried. A New Yorker for many years, he’s lived through all sorts of calamities, natural and man-made. His home is on the 10th floor of a building near Greenwich Village, plenty high enough to keep his feet dry.

Another friend and his wife live in lower Manhattan, close to the site of 9/11, and the water. They looked on the arrival of Hurricane Sandy with similar aplomb as they went about their task: filling the tub of their 14th floor apartment with water, rounding up a number of bottles of drinking water, and piling up canned goods.

This friend scarcely mentioned living with a grounded elevator. But as the Lady Friend said, for people whose life might have been snuffed out in the fallout from the World Trade center, coping with Sandy was an adventure. A septuagenarian, he makes light work of climbing all 14 stories, as I can testify as an eye-witness.

Whatever the political fallout from Sandy, it’s sadly clear the electorate is racially divided. Charles M. Blow, in his Saturday column in the New York Times, pointed to a Washington Post-ABC News poll that found the president “has a deficit of 23 percentage points, trailing Republican Mitt Romney 60 percent to 37 percent among whites.” On the other hand, nearly 80 percent of non-whites support Obama, while 91 percent of Romney’s supporters are white.

Such data give rise to speculation that Obama could win re-election if he wins in the electoral college even if he loses the popular vote. It happened in 2000.

Mel Lavine was a television producer for many years with NBC News and CBS News in New York. Contact him at his e-mail address: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

 

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