The impact of weather on politics generally does not get a great deal of attention, but the possible effects of Isaac on the upcoming presidential election are well worth considering.
Obviously, the Republican National Convention has been impacted by the storm. One impact is that Isaac has served to steal the spotlight from the RNC. As such, while the Republicans had hoped that the media would be focused on them, they have had to share news time with Isaac. This is especially evident when the news is presented in “split screen” with storm information appearing under whatever is occurring in the news. Of course, the storm seems to have had the positive impact of taking Donald Trump out of the convention, although he threw out a tweet urging the Republicans to take up the banner of bitherism.
A second impact is that Isaac’s course change towards New Orleans has brought Katrina back into the news. Justly or unjustly, the Katrina disaster is linked with George Bush and thus linked to the Republican party. No doubt the Republicans are not happy that America is being vividly reminded of that terrible event. While Obama would obviously take action despite the chance of political gain in this manner, this situation has provided Obama with a chance to score some political points by showing that his administration is preparing effectively for the storm.
What is far less clear is what impact the storm will have, both in terms of physical damage and political effects.
If the storm damages New Orleans, the Republicans will need to modify their speeches to take the situation into account. After all, the context of a national disaster would hardly be ideal setting in which to launch aggressive attacks
against Obama. While this civility would be morally commendable, given the current reliance on negative politics, this would rob the Republicans speeches of much of their rhetorical impact. It is, of course, possible that Romney or another Republican will deliver an amazing speech that respects the severity of the situation while still making the Republican case in an inspiring and effective way. I am, however, unsure if the usual crop of writers can throw their gears in reverse and craft such a masterpiece instead of the usual negative and often deceptive bashing.
Another point of concern is that the storm damage would provide Obama with an opportunity to score political points by handling the situation effectively. Naturally, poor handling of a disaster would be a political blow against Obama, but it is hard to imagine that he could do a worse than what happened with Katrina.
There is also the fact that the governor of Louisiana would need to rely on federal support when confronting a major disaster. If he engaged in attacks on Obama while federal support is pouring into his state, he could very well come across as petty and ungrateful (even if this is undeserved). It is, of course, always somewhat ironic when “small government” and “rugged individualism” Republicans eagerly accept federal aid. After all, one obvious contribution the state makes to the success of businesses and individuals is by contributing significantly to rebuilding after a disaster. Having the Obama administration effectively addressing storm damage would certainly do some real damage to some stock components of Republican rhetoric.
It is, of course, important to note that a significant storm will hurt and kill people while also doing considerable property damage. As such, exploiting it for political points would be reprehensible. This does, of course, provide an avenue for the use of stock negative politics: whatever Obama does could be cast as cynical attempts to score political points.
The full impact of the storm will, of course, not be known until it is over. Hopefully, the storm’s impact will be minimal and America will quickly rebuild.