Intelligence Report: Sandy's impact on presidential race

October 29, 2012 (CHICAGO)

Eight days before the election, Hurricane Sandy has brought presidential campaigning to a halt, and in some key states, it is stopping early voting.

For millions of people along the northeastern seaboard, the weather is doing what the candidates would never do on their own closing in on a week before Election Day: There are no campaign commercials, because TVs are dark; there are no candidates, because campaigns are suspended; and in many places, there is no early voting, because the polls are shut down.

As Hurricane Sandy approached the East Coast, some voters lined up over the weekend to cast early votes, anticipating that precincts would be closed because of the storm.

Monday, as President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney suspended their own campaigns due to the hurricane, the president was asked whether there could be a problem holding the election a week from Tuesday.

"I am not worried at this point on the impact on the election. I'm worried about the impact on families and our first responders," said President Obama. "The election will take care of itself next week."

But this week, Monday and Tuesday, the storm track is right over five battleground states where both candidates planned to campaign down to the wire.

However, of the five, early voting is not allowed in Pennsylvania and New Hampshire; but there is -- or may be -- early voting impact in Ohio, Virginia and North Carolina.

North Carolina was singed by the storm on Saturday and some early voting sites were closed. Other eastern Carolina precincts were closed Monday, although the urban centers in Raleigh-Durham and Charlotte are unaffected.

Parts of Virginia are taking a more direct hit. According to election officials, 21 early voting offices were closed Monday and several will be Tuesday as well.

In Ohio, considered the key battleground state election, officials tell the I-Team that every early voting site was open Monday, and despite high winds and the leading edge of the storm system pushing into Ohio overnight, they do not expect closures. In Ohio, 1.6 million voters have asked for or already cast absentee ballots.

In some states affected by the storm, election authorities are already considering extending early voting and absentee deadlines for as long as things were shut down by Hurricane Sandy.

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