As a storm of biblical proportions hits the east coast of the United States it is absorbing most of the TV time on the networks, but here in Austin, Texas where I am beginning my election observation visit, it was not the lead story on the local affiliate station I watched tonight, or last night. They led with a worrying local road toll and a dispute over helicopter flights over a suburb respectively.
That’s not to say that people in Austin don’t care about the tragic and damaging events on the esst coast, but it goes to prove the old adage that all politics is local. And that is the story of the presidential election. The electoral college system ensures that local(state) concerns matter. A small economic pick up in Ohio matters as a swing state for Obama. A factory closure in Virginia might favour Romney. Ignore the nationwide polls. They will all be close. It’s Ohio, Virginia, Florida etc and their local issues that will make the difference.
It also means that the on the ground campaign will be everything. Despite all the sophisticated targeting and data management systems both camps are saying that there is nothing that beats door knocking and direct phone calls from volunteers to motivate people to vote.
But the real “local” issue now for millions of Americans is the damage and chaos in their lives from Sandy. As I write the news is coming through that six million people are without power. Who knows how that will affect the election, with some suggesting power might not be reconnected by polling day in some places. But rightly that is not the focus for now as people deal with death and destruction. Mother nature is no respecter of the political calendar, and right now my thoughts are with those communities dealing with the carnage.