With only a week until Election Day, pols cede center stage to Sandy

A storm named Sandy may have relegated politics to the backburner for at least a couple days, but don’t expect politicians to batten down the hatches on their campaigns.

With only a week until Election Day, retail politics is in full swing. And Republican candidate for governor Randy Brock today said he won’t let Sandy take the wind out of his sails.

“I always get the best responses at sign waves or other events when it’s snowing and the wind is blowing,” Brock said. “People know you want the job and are willing to endure some discomfort to get it.”

As a practical matter, the storm will force some rescheduling. Incumbent Treasurer Beth Pearce was to have received a high-profile endorsement earlier this morning from former Gov. Howard Dean. The Democrat’s campaign called reporters Sunday evening to say the Statehouse event had been postponed until later in the week.

“We had a honk-and-wave scheduled this morning too that we probably could have pulled off, but did cancel at the last minute last night just in case,” said Pearce campaign manager Ryan Emerson. “I think the thing that (Sandy) really changes is public appearances are harder to do, and those are really the most important thing to do toward the end of a campaign, considering most of the money has been raised and calls have been made.”

Pearce’s Republican challenger, Wendy Wilton, said she’d kept her campaign scheudle this week pretty flexible.

“So I’ll kind of be able to work around whatever issues arise as a result of the storm,” Wilton said.

The biggest Sandy-related political story so far, of course, has centered on lawn signs. In emails to their supporters, candidates have prevailed upon folks to pull the placards from the ground until the heavy winds abate.

Gov. Peter Shumlin even issued a lawn-sign warning at a press conference last week.

“I don’t see any alteration of our plans, other than to make sure everybody’s got their signs secured so they don’t become a missile and do more damage than they do getting us votes,” said GOP Chairman Jack Lindley.

Nationally, media outlets are trying to parse Sandy’s influence on presidential politics. Some experts insist the weather event will benefit Barack Obama. Others say it clearly will boost Mitt Romney.

Locally, according to Eric Davis, professor emeritus of political science at Middlebury College, the storm is for the most part a political non-event.

“Peter Shumlin can appear gubernatorial, but he’s been doing that all fall anyway,” said Davis, noting recent press conferences centered on LIHEAP, bath salts and health insurance.

One possible side effect, according to Davis, is the loss of television advertising slots for candidates that had been relying on late-race airtime to build name recognition and fine-tune message control.

“If the storm develops to the point where all the TV stations are doing nonstop coverage and candidates who bought advertising time can’t get their message out, that might be one impact,” Davis said. “But otherwise I don’t see much effect.”

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