iOS app Android app More

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors
Al Eisele

GET UPDATES FROM Al Eisele
 

Obama: Saved by Sandy?

Posted: 11/01/2012 11:26 pm

Teddy White was right.

As Theodore H. White, the late great TIME/Life reporter and author of the Making of the President volumes once counseled me, there are two cardinal rules political reporters should never forget.

The first is "to always resist the thinking of people you see every day, and to report what you KNOW is happening and never predict what you THINK will happen," he said when I interviewed him in his New York townhouse in 1966. "To go against the dominant thinking of your friends, of the people you see every day, is perhaps the most difficult thing you can do."

The other cardinal rule for political reporters, he said while pouring each of us a generous portion of good bourbon, is that unexpected and unpredictable events invariably happen to change the course of presidential elections, and history.

He was, or course, soon proven right when President Johnson announced he wouldn't run for reelection in 1968.

And again when Tom Eagleton's admission he'd been hospitalized for depression forced George McGovern to dump him as his running mate in 1972; when a bungled burglary led to the scandal that drove President Nixon from office in 1974; when President Ford said there was no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe in 1976; when the Iranian hostage crisis doomed President Carter's bid for reelection in 1980; when Walter Mondale said he'd have to raise your taxes if elected in 1984, and lost every state but his native Minnesota; when Mike Dukakis failed to defend his wife's honor in 1988; when the first President Bush impatiently checked his watch while debating Bill Clinton in 1992; when Al Gore's mournful sighing in 2000 and John Kerry's patrician manner in 2004 helped George Dubya win two terms in the White House; and when John McCain picked a running mate who wasn't ready for prime time in 2008.

And now, in 2012, after President Obama revived Mitt Romney's moribund campaign by inexcusably phoning it in during the first presidential debate, it looks like another unexpected and unpredictable example of the Teddy White Rule may have boosted Obama's chances less than 100 hours before Tuesday's election.

It was Hurricane Sandy, the monstrous megastorm that wiped out half the New Jersey shore and parts of New York City while wreaking multi-billion-dollar havoc on much of the eastern U.S., that has given new life to Obama's hopes for reelection, despite a disappointing first term.

That's because the innocently-named storm -- she should have been named Stella, as in Marlon Brando's desperate cry for help in On the Waterfront -- has highlighted one of Romney's greatest vulnerabilities, his flip-flopping over FEMA and his refusal to accept the reality of climate change.

Worse yet for Romney was New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's warm embrace of Obama for his leadership in responding to the historic storm, and for reaching out to ask Christie what he could do. At the same time, Christie praised FEMA, which undoubtedly reminded people that Romney has said it is "immoral" to spend money on disaster relief at a time of record budget deficits.

That Sandy's destructive impact was felt in the key battleground states of Virginia and Ohio --- which is so close that it may be decided by a single voter in Chillecothe -- bodes well for Obama.

Of course, as Teddy White reminded us, don't forget that unexpected and unpredictable events could still happen to change the course of this election.

 
FOLLOW POLITICS