October has always been a month of surprises and we don’t mean the tricks and treats of Halloween. In election years there are the scandals and events that turn the tide or secure the win for candidates and incumbents, especially for the presidential race. 2012 is no different.
The real question for the history books will be which event in this election cycle was the one that made the difference in the end. The month of October started with intense scrutiny on the September 11 terrorist attack on the U.S. consulted in Benghazi, Libya. Congressional House Oversight hearings set off a flood of attention to what the White House said, when, and the facts that contradicted those statements.
Initially the White House affirmed that the attack, resulting in the death of 4 Americans including Ambassador Chris Stevens, was due to a spontaneous protest against an obscure anti-Muslim video. This protest then spiraled into an attack, or so the public was told at first.
The reality, as has been proven since that time, is that there was no protest and the attack was a co-ordinate terrorist action. There was no connection to any video. Further, the attack was preceded by requests from the consulate security for additional support – which were denied by superiors in Washington DC. The latest information has found that during the attack, requests for help were denied several times though there were troops and air support available in the area.
The Obama Administration spent the month of October alternating between accepting and redirecting blame, and trying to establish or substantiate timelines of what they said, compared to what they knew as more and more proof surfaces showing that the American public was actively lied to.
This obviously bode badly for the re-election effort of President Obama. The impact was not just in the news papers but was a key part of the 1st Presidential debate, and found its way into each debate. The attack and the apparent cover-up were critical examples of the Obama foreign policy efforts, and failures.
In most election years that would be the end of the story. The tide of the election had turned and momentum of voters against the incumbent would carry through to the election. Whether or not this would become another scandal on the level of Watergate, or Fast & Furious, would be determined likely in the lame duck session to follow but it would be clear that a new Presidency would be in charge of guiding that course.
Yet 2012 is not a normal election year. Nor was it a normal time for weather. A conflagration of severe weather fronts would combine to create a “superstorm” to be called Sandy. Comprised of a Hurricane, a Nor’ Easter, and a cold front Sandy would hit the northeastern U.S. – an area not accustomed to Hurricanes let alone “super” storms.
The devastation has been widespread. As of this article there are thousands on Staten Island in need of food and shelter. The NYSE was flooded and trading halted, a rare occurrence that indicates an extreme circumstance. New Jersey has been devastated on a statewide level.
Into that calamity entered President Obama, as well he should have. Without a hint of political opportunism, acting only as a President should when a natural disaster hits, Obama went to New Jersey. More than a few pundits, and news media organizations hyped the event which featured incidental photo-ops of the President with outspoken Republican Governor Chris Christie.
At the same time, Republican Challenger Mitt Romney went silent. He allowed the President to do his job, helping those that cannot help themselves. By all rights, everyone did the right thing.
Suddenly all the news of Benghazi and the consulate attack were gone from the headlines. The focus of the nation, and the news media, was on New Jersey, Staten Island, and the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy. Which makes sense, and has repercussions that unintentionally reverberate in the polls.
The result was another October surprise. President Obama resurrected his image as a leader in command of the situation. His compassion touched the nation. The result, a surge in the polls where before there was a consistent and growing trend for the challenger, brought the election back to a draw by the average of all national polls.
History may well determine that the key to deciding the 2012 election was mother nature herself. If nothing else it surely will cause the election to be far closer than it otherwise would have been.