CONCORD, NH — Bill Clinton took the stage at the corner of North State and Main to deliver a message about Hurricane Sandy: That it made President Barack Obama look very, very good.
“You know [Obama] proved [it in] the way he handled this terrible storm Sandy in the Northeast: getting off the campaign trail, putting aside politics, working with the Republican governor of New Jersey, the independent mayor of New York City, and the Democratic governors of New York and Connecticut,” Clinton told the crowd on a chilly fall morning in Concord, NH. “It was a stunning example of how ‘we’re all in this together’ is a way better philosophy than you’re on your own.”
Since returning to the campaign trail on Thursday, the opening part of Obama’s stump speech has been dedicated to discussing the response and aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.
In New Hampshire today, following Bill Clinton, the president continued to weave the drama and tragedy of the hurricane into the larger narrative of American resilence, connecting it with the kind of hope-oriented themes he’s deployed in his stump speech all year.
“For the past several days obviously all of us have been focused on one of the worst storms of our lifetimes, and New Hampshire knows about storms, [and] obviously, what we’ve seen happen in New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut just breaks our heart,” the president said, noting he’d visited New Jersey, and was on phone with the FEMA director, governors and mayors regularly.
”We’re going to help them rebuild,” Obama said “That’s what we do as Americans….[We see] leaders of different parties working to fix what’s broken, a spirit that says no matter how bad a storm is, no matter how tough the times are, we’re all in this together. We rise and fall as one nation and as one people. That spirit, New Hampshire, has guided this country along its improbable journey for more than two centuries. That spirit that carried us through the trial and tribulations of the last four years.”
He then launched into his more familiar critique of how the current economic and geopolitical situation was largely the fault of the Bush administration, and how he’s been trying his best to get out the hole he claims to have found the country in.
Neither White House officials nor campaign officials will publiclly discuss the political impact of the hurricane, and attempts by reporters to ask about how voters perceived the president’s behavior and the consquences on the presidential elaction have thus far been soundly rebuffed.
“We’re not concerned with that,” Obama senior advisor David Plouffe told reporters at the gaggle on Friday after being asked by BuzzFeed about how voters viewed the president’s response.
On the record, too, they’ve continued to say that they always had confidence that they would win due to what David Axelrod describes as “cold hard data,” and note that the early voting operation that they see as a key to victory was in place well before the storm hit.
But privately, campaign officials will acknowledge what they view as the president’s superb handling of the disaster, and say that the support of Governor Chris Christie and Michael Bloomberg has helped the president politically — and insulated him from potential criticism during what is likely to be a long and messy clean-up.
The storm appears to have put a dead stop to the post-Denver Romney surge, paralyzing the race for days of wall-to-wall coverage of the president acting, yes, presidential.
But if Obama’s staff insists that it’s politically incorrect to discuss the politics of the storm, its place in his and Clintons’ stump speeches tell that story clearly.
And Obama’s rank and file supporters say they see clearly that the storm helped the president.
“The president’s going to win thanks to a woman named Sandy,” an Obama volunteer, Tom Hammon, told BuzzFeed at a rally on Saturday in Dubuque, Iowa, where the president had five point lead in the most recent public poll. Hammon says he’s volunteered on every Democratic campaign since 1968 — and even mowed George McGovern’s name into a wheat field during the ‘72 campaign.
Obama’s going to win, Hammon continued, because of a woman named Sandy and “a governor named Chris Christie.”