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Friday, October 26, 2012

Campaigns Brace for \'Frankenstorm\'

There is no escaping the 2012 presidential campaign, which is entering its final, all-consuming 10 days.

But what if something came along and diverted everyone's attention? What if the candidate rallies and speeches were but a sideshow? What if all the cable TV chatter was about something else?

That something else is churning through the Atlantic right now.

Hurricane Sandy is expected to slam into the East Coast sometime early next week as a strong - perhaps historic - tropical storm that could cause severe coastal flooding, generate intense wind damage and knock out power to millions of people for days.

In other words - perfect television.

Meteorologists are still not certain of the storm's track. It could end up shifting eastward, heading harmlessly out into the Atlantic. Or it could make landfall as a much weaker storm that fizzles as a real news story.

But if it becomes the “Frankenstorm” that some weather watchers are calling it, the storm has the potential to have a serious effect on the presidential campaign in its final days.

Travel of the candidates could be disrupted as campaign planes are forced to divert around the storm. President Obama is scheduled to return to the White House each day after campaigning next week, but the storm could create havoc with those plans.

And Mitt Romney and the president could find it harder for their last-minute messages to break through if they are competing with the visuals of a large, threatening storm.

That could have a particularly outsized impact in Virginia if the storm hits that far south. The state is one of the most important battlegrounds for the campaigns, and polls have shown the race there exceedingly tight.

Of course, there are other battleground states, some of which are nowhere near the path of the storm. The candidates will be spending plenty of time in places like Iowa, Colorado and Nevada.

If the storm hits, they may have to.

Follow Michael D. Shear on Twitter at @shearm.