We live in the age of managed expectations — of projected outcomes and likely damage. It will be some days before the actual effects of the tropical storm absurdly named Sandy are computer-assessed, news-reported and blog- and Twitter-dissected. And debated too, one suspects. Already some wonder whether Sandy is this year’s ‘October surprise’, meaning, in crassest terms, a question of which of the presidential candidates will profit from it, perhaps even receive a ‘bounce’ in the insta-polls released between now and election day (next Tuesday).
Has Sandy been ‘good’ for President Obama, who enjoys the advantages of the ‘commander-in-chief’ at a time of emergency, dispensing billions in disaster aid to the whole of the megalopolitan Eastern seaboard (most of them Democrats)? Or, since the election hinges on ‘swing states’ in the heartland or the far west, will the ‘winner’ be Mitt Romney, the grudgingly nominated but now surging tribune of boiling anti-government passions? One is bracing for the gale of TV ads, both from the Democrats championing the incumbent and reminding us how much we need an effective, well-subsidised federal government (its climatologists and rescue workers) and from the Republicans, pinning the storm and its costs (the deaths, the flooding, the millions stripped of water and electricity) on the crippling dependencies created by the welfare state.