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Hurricanes and US pres. elections

Posted October. 31, 2012 22:24,   


Newseum, which is a museum of news and journalism in Washington, has a photo of Harry S. Truman, who won the 1948 presidential election, holding a Chicago Tribune newspaper, with the headline, "Dewey Defeats Truman." Featuring one of the biggest fiascos in news history, the paper is being traded for a high price. Back then, all opinion polls had bet on a win by the Republican candidate Thomas Dewey due to internal conflict in the Democratic Party. Only God knew the truth, however. On Election Day, heavy rains and wind hit the Mississippi Valley, paralyzing traffic in farm areas and causing many Republican supporters to give up voting.

Major disasters such as hurricanes have influenced the outcomes of presidential elections. George Bush and his son George W. Bush both had ill-fated relationships with such storms. The elder Bush lost to Bill Clinton in 1992 after failing to effectively deal with Hurricane Andrew that year. His son was vacationing in Texas in 2005 though fully aware that Hurricane Katrina was approaching New Orleans. He faced harsh criticism for "touring" the air over the Big Easy in the comfort of the presidential plane Air Force One before returning to the White House. The Republican Party eventually lost in the 2008 presidential election.

Hurricane Sandy, which devastated the U.S. northeastern region this week, showed a different schedule and route. The storm hit with under a week away until this year`s presidential election (Nov. 6) and passed areas with no clear support for either of the two candidates. This has given rise to a conspiracy speculation that the High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program was mobilized to create the hurricane.

President Barack Obama and Republican candidate Mitt Romney are going all out to use the possible effects of Sandy on voters. Obama has the advantage but cannot grow complacent due to the possible spread of the storm`s aftereffects. Romney is being cautious to prevent criticism that he is focusing on his campaign amid the country`s crisis situation. A New York Times opinion piece criticized Romney for insisting on closing the Federal Emergency Management Agency, saying big storms demand a big government. The influence of weather conditions over a presidential election is huge, and the fate of candidates depends on not only public support but also unexpected incidents.

Editorial Writer Chung Sung-hee (shchung@donga.com)