Hurricane could blow US election off course

'Everyone in the hurricane's path should immediately make their way to their second or third home' - Mitt Romney. It was a spoof, of course, but typical of the social media discourse during this critically poised US presidential election.

Danny Rogers: 'As never before in his four years as President, Obama is required to show strong leadership to pull the nation through a crisis'
Danny Rogers: 'As never before in his four years as President, Obama is required to show strong leadership to pull the nation through a crisis'

At the time of writing, Hurricane Sandy is battering the US’s eastern seaboard with devastating effect to the region’s people and, potentially, the country’s politicians.

It is a nation on a knife edge. Opinion polls had been showing Barack Obama and Mitt Romney neck-and-neck in the final sprint to the White House. And then Hurricane Sandy arrived, presenting potentially the biggest natural disaster since Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans in 2005.

There is an established concept in US elections known as the ‘October surprise’ – an unexpected event on the eve of the presidential election has a major impact on voters. But there have been few shocks on the scale of Sandy.

Ironically, the disaster shifts the ball firmly into Obama’s court. As never before in his four years as President, he is required to show strong and effective leadership to pull the nation through a crisis. But we will have to wait a few days to see how the nation judges his crisis response.

Until Sandy struck, it had been a hard-fought campaign without an obvious winner.

Romney fared better than expected in the televised debates, with Obama failing to fully recover from the first bout, when the Republican candidate landed some powerful blows.

The print media seem split down the middle with liberal commentators naturally favouring Obama, and more pro-business media backing Romney.

However, in the emerging campaigning battleground of social media, Obama has a definite edge. Since 2008, when Obama’s campaign used Facebook to mobilise younger and ethnic demographics, his team has been building this momentum.

Obama has 21.5 million followers to Romney’s 1.5 million on Twitter, where the chatter is largely mocking of the challenger, attacking his wealth and his previous opposition to investing in federal disaster funding. Obama has also used micro-blogging sites such as Tumblr to engage effectively with younger voters.

Nevertheless, one senses that this election will come down to leadership and character. Obama could establish himself as the nation’s ‘Churchill’, instilling a Dunkirk spirit. Or he could suffer like George W Bush following Hurricane Katrina, slammed for lack of preparation and mismanagement.

Romney can only sit and observe this critical comms exercise. The stakes could not be higher.

danny.rogers@haymarket.com

Before commenting please read our rules for commenting on articles.

If you see a comment you find offensive, you can flag it as inappropriate. In the top right-hand corner of an individual comment, you will see 'flag as inappropriate'. Clicking this prompts us to review the comment. For further information see our rules for commenting on articles.

comments powered by Disqus

Latest Articles

John Lewis to tell brand story with "tasteful" 150th anniversary celebrations

John Lewis to tell brand story with "tasteful" 150th anniversary celebrations

Department store John Lewis is to use its 150th anniversary this year to talk about its history, which "not enough people know about", according to director of communications Peter Cross.

Labour hires Obama election strategist David Axelrod to fight General Election

Labour hires Obama election strategist David Axelrod to fight General Election

The man who helped Barack Obama win the 2008 and 2012 US presidential elections is to work for Labour along with members of his team.

Sky adds Fever PR to its roster after splitting with Cake

Sky adds Fever PR to its roster after splitting with Cake

Pay-TV giant Sky has added Fever PR to its agency line-up for a wide-ranging brief covering products and services.

Max Clifford trial jury to continue deliberations after Easter break

Max Clifford trial jury to continue deliberations after Easter break

The jury in the trial of celebrity publicist Max Clifford has been sent home for Easter and will reconvene on Tuesday for further deliberations about its verdicts on 11 charges of indecent assault.

Home Office brings in Munro & Forster to campaign against FGM

Home Office brings in Munro & Forster to campaign against FGM

The Home Office has tasked Munro & Forster (M&F) with supporting its campaign to eradicate female genital mutilation (FGM) as part of a wider retained brief.