Both Democrat Chris Murphy and Republican Linda McMahon canceled their campaign events Monday and focused on safety as the state began to feel the impact of Hurricane Sandy.
Murphy, the three-term congressman, traveled his district and Tweeted updates from the various Emergency Operation Centers to his more than 5,900 followers. McMahon and her campaign re-Tweeted updates from Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and added some of their own words of caution.
“It is starting to get very windy and dangerous, and it will only get worse. Please make sure you and your family are staying home,” McMahon’s campaign says in one of its Tweets to more than 35,000 followers.
“We’ve spent the last few hours making sure people are kept up to date with safety information,” Todd Abrajano, McMahon’s campaign spokesman, said.
As for the Murphy campaign, its spokesman Ben Marter said all campaign staff was told to stay home and stay safe. He said Murphy is fulfilling his role as a congressman and meeting with local officials in the 5th Congressional District.
“We’re just trying to get information out,” Marter said adding that the campaign is on hold until the storm passes.
But with the balance of power in the U.S. Senate at play, will the storm play a role in deciding the outcome?
Vincent Moscardelli, a political science professor at the University of Connecticut, said it’s unclear natural disasters like hurricanes affect elections.
What is certain is, if power outages persist then it could impact voter turnout on Nov. 6, he said.
“If you have no power and you’re trying to get your yard cleaned up, then voting will be the last thing on your mind,“ Moscardelli said.
Moscardelli and his colleagues are looking to see if the freak 2011 snowstorm had any impact on the municipal elections and whether incumbents fared better or worse because of the storm.
But Moscardelli and his colleagues won’t be the first political science professors to look at election data from a weather perspective.
In 2004, then Princeton Professors Larry Bartels and Christopher Achen studied the impact of climate on elections and concluded the electorate punishes incumbents if it’s too wet or too dry.
Neither Murphy nor McMahon are incumbents in the U.S. Senate race, so it’s unclear if the theory would apply. Bartels, who is now at Vanderbilt University, was unable to be reached for comment Monday.
“We find that voters regularly punish governments for acts of God, including droughts, floods, and shark attacks,“ Bartels and Achen concluded in their study. “As long as responsibility for the event itself (or more commonly, for its amelioration) can somehow be attributed to the government in a story persuasive within the folk culture, the electorate will take out its frustrations on the incumbents and vote for out-parties.”
That could be good news for McMahon, who has never held public office.
A more recent study by Andrew Reeves of Boston University and John Gasper of Carnegie Mellon University found that the electorate punishes those in government who perform poorly during weather events and rewards governors and presidents who act accordingly during weather events.
“We find that electorates punish presidents and governors for severe weather damage. However, we find that these effects are dwarfed by the response of attentive electorates to the actions of their officials,” the study found.
As a congressman, Murphy doesn’t have a leading role in managing the disaster, but his opponent or some of her supporters are certainly trying to tie him to negative perceptions of CL&P and how the company handled last year’s storms.
In a poll being conducted Monday, a pollster asked: “Would it affect your opinion of Murphy to know that he has received tens of thousands of dollars from CL&P and that he didn’t hold them accountable for the massive outages last year?”
McMahon’s campaign denies any knowledge of the poll. Murphy has received campaign donations from Northeast Utilities, which is the parent company of Connecticut Light & Power.
The storm, which could impact as many as 60 million people up and down the east coast, was a top priority for President Barack Obama, who canceled his Green Bay, Wisconsin campaign stop with former President Bill Clinton to return to Washington, D.C.
Despite one of the closest presidential campaigns in history, Obama decided to head back to the White House for briefings on the storm.
“This is a time not for politics, but at a moment like this, with a storm as severe as this, with likely impacts as consequential as we will see, the President is very focused on making sure that the federal response effort is comprehensive, that every state and locality has what it needs,” Jay Carney, White House spokesman, said Monday.
At a briefing later in the afternoon Monday, Obama was asked if he was concerned about suspending his campaign.
“I am not worried at this point about the impact on the election,” Obama said. “I’m worried about the impact on families, and I’m worried about the impact on our first responders. I’m worried about the impact on our economy and on transportation.”