In the final days of a presidential campaign, nothing is left to chance.
Motorcade rides, rallies and the rest are choreographed down to the minute by fleets of radio earpiece-wearing staffers.
So when Hurricane Sandy prompted Romney to jettison his plans for early this week, it threw his campaign apparatus into overdrive. In Boston, staffers held marathon conference calls about scheduling as they nervously watched weather reports. On the campaign plane, reporters peppered aides with questions about where they would spend the night, throwing out cities in top battleground states as guesses.
Denver wasn’t far, and out of the path of the storm? What about Florida? Or Las Vegas?
At 3pm, a staffer came back with an announcement: Romney would be spending the night in Dayton, Ohio. The rest of the schedule remained unknown, as aides waited for the storm to have its impact — both on the coast and the campaign trail.
While scheduling staffers wrestled with rebooking hotel rooms for dozens of aides and reporters, top advisers worried about what the storm would mean for their campaign. Some argued it effectively froze the game, pausing election activities for both sides and focusing voters on wall-to-wall storm coverage. Others said it could benefit Romney, by depressing the major push President Barack Obama’s team has made to get their supporters to the polls early. The most pessimistic foresaw a messy Election Day, increasing the number of absentee and provisional ballots cast and, as a result, the likelihood of recounts that could go on for weeks.
Yet almost everyone admitted that their predictions were little more than theoretical: Until they saw the severity of the storm, no know could really say with certainty how it would impact the race.
“I don’t have a clue what this will do,” said Charlie Black, a Romney adviser. “Neither does anyone else.”