Stormy skies may linger for US election
JOHN HARTEVELT IN TAMPA, FLORIDA
They're still running topless on America's east coast.
While Hurricane Sandy cuts a dramatic swathe across much of the north-eastern seaboard, further south in Florida it's just a few fahrenheit cooler.
Along the Riverwalk in downtown Tampa this morning, joggers were bouncing along in sunglasses and brimmed caps with just a cool breeze to contend with.
Locals appreciate the irony - the south-eastern state is much more accustomed to storms than those further north.
In August, Hurricane Isaac bore down just as the Republican National Convention was about to get underway here.
Then, as now, political campaigning had to be paused as the storm consumed all attention and anxieties.
Today, as the locals talk mostly of Sandy and the news media is dominated by coverage of it, both the Obama and Romney campaigns are doing the same again.
Romney has today replaced a scheduled campaign rally in Ohio with a "storm relief event".
Obama cancelled visits in Orlando, Florida yesterday and his team today swapped calls for campaign contributions to pleas for donations to relief agencies like the Red Cross.
"Soon enough we'll need to get back to work on the most important campaign of our lifetime," campaign manager Jim Messina said.
But there is no respite from much of the campaign furniture. Cash continues to surge in to the so-called "super PACs" bankrolling hours and hours of campaign advertising variously attacking and endorsing candidates. In swing states like Florida, the ads are almost ubiquitous.
There are even ads maligning the ads. Many of Romney's official advertisements airing in Tampa play on his much-lauded performance in the first campaign debate, simply playing edited extracts from the night.
Others are more aggressive - the Romney team is being criticised today for a new ad in Ohio which focuses on the auto industry bail-out.
The front page of the nationwide USA Today this morning asks "Will this election be a replay of 2000?"
In an extensive piece that recalled the "hanging chad" controversy of 2000, the paper suggests there "might well" be another "split decision" on November 6 where the president is elected by virtue of more electoral college votes but without winning the nationwide popular vote.
"The ingredients are clearly present in 2012 for another difficult difficult Election Day and long election night," the paper reports.
Some, including USA Today, have gone to the point of floating the potential for a tie - 269 electoral college votes each. Inside an election-heavy issue of Time magazine, the "November 7 nightmare" scenario gets a full page of cover.
The result, it's explained, would be decided by the House of Representatives - likely to be Republican-controlled - although the twist would be that the vice-president would be decided by Senate meaning the truly bizarre scenario of a Romney/Biden team is hypothetically possible.
That idea remains highly improbable - there would be loads of legal action before it came to that - but it falls in to a category of bi-partisanship not so far removed from the current state of the hurricane-affected campaign.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie - a high profile Romney backer - has been vocally supportive of the Obama Administration through the Sandy situation.
Any hint of organisational malaise, however, and politics will come surging back. With just a week to the vote and the race to finely balanced, you can pretty much count on it.
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