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A week ago I'd have been certain that this election would go in favor of Mitt Romney (which, frankly, I think means we'd be trading one set of big government, freedom-squelching priorities for another, slightly more sinister and warmongerish set). But something happened, and that something is 'Hurricane Sandy.'

The perception I've gleaned from it, from conversations around the spectrum is that Obama has in the light of the most intense examination imaginable shown up as a leader, riding out the storm in the heart of its path while directing the allocation of resources to save lives in states which happen to be some key contests of this election. North Carolina. Virginia. Pennsylvania. New Hampshire. Even Republican governors in the affected states -- enamored as they are of federal dollars salving their wounds -- have piled on praise for Obama's performance in the crucible. And even though Florida was bypassed by the storm, undoubtedly Floridians pay close attention to how a candidate deals with the devastation accompanying a major hurricane.

And this is where Romney is really hurt by this contrast, not so much by the fact that Obama has done well, but in that Romney exhibited what has been interpreted (with not much of a stretch) as cowardice.

While Obama stayed in the danger zone and stared down howling death, Romney, the sense is, ran with his tail between his legs to go campaign in the Midwest. The contrast reminds me of the end of the Robin Williams movie version of Popeye, where at the end the sailor-man eats his spinach and defeats the giant octopus, and the next thing to be seen is Bluto, swimming away from the fight as fast as he can, having literally turned yellow. Somehow, Obama has eaten his spinach -- while Romney has run far, far away. And even then, once safe from those scary winds and rains, Romney cancelled his safely remote campaign appearances -- but only when it became clear that he'd pay a political price to go forward with them while this disaster reigned. Which makes Romney look too calculating, but hamhandedly so. And calculating poorly while fleeing like a coward, that's an especially unappealing combination. Though I am no fan of what either candidate stands for, Romney had every chance to choose to stay and face the danger like a man. And he couldn't do it, so, disgusted, men wash their hands of him.

An oddity of the situation is that it will be impossible to gauge the impact of this circumstance until election day itself. Effective polling in the states affected will simply be impossible, and no useful campaigning will occur in them either -- except, naturally, for the presence of representatives of Obama's government coming around to rescue people and restore electricity and other things which we've been conditioned to perceive as the necessities of life. But if, as some pundits now ponder, this disaster and Obama's resulting complementary press result in Obama winning (at least) Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Virgina, then all of a sudden the map will shift so sharply that Obama could afford to lose Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Colorado, and Nevada, and still win the election. (And, even if Florida remains unshifted, the remaining map still levels a loss in Ohio with wins in Michigan and Minnesota, where Obama has enjoyed substantial leads throughout the campaign season).

The election is by no means over, as anything could happen in the final week, though it's hard to see how anything could trump the raw reality of a massive natural disaster. So I would still encourage conservatives living in blue states to vote for Gary Johnson, so as to send a message of conservatism to any potential Romney administration which may come around, now or in the future.


In node auditing news:

iceowl -- on page 8 of 10.
teleny -- on page 12 of 14.

junkill and jessicapierce are in the queue.

Blessings, all!!

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