Sandy's Headwinds Stall Romney's Momentum
Policy + Politics

Sandy's Headwinds Stall Romney's Momentum

REUTERS/Brian Snyder

In the closing days of the presidential race, Mitt Romney faces a new set of headwinds.

Hurricane Sandy might be the ultimate twist in the election—and its ferocious squalls along with some stumbles this week by Romney point toward a campaign that may struggle in the final dash to Nov. 6. This doesn’t mean President Obama is a guaranteed lock for a second term, only that the momentum that carried Romney forward over the past month appears to have stalled.

The Republican ducked questions Tuesday about his call at a GOP primary debate last year to shift the responsibilities for disaster relief from the federal government to states and private enterprises. On top of that, his running mate, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, put forward a budget that cuts funding to states for disaster aid.

And It’s Obama, the Democrat, touring the devastation caused by the hurricane on Wednesday with the keynote speaker at the Republican National Convention—New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. Romney is working crowds down in Florida on Wednesday, but Obama has the opportunity to appear presidential.

As if that weren’t enough, Romney is fending off criticism about a campaign ad suggesting that Chrysler—as a result of the government auto bailout—will be moving jobs at its Jeep factory to China. The company quickly criticized the ad for falsely portraying its expansion in China as coming at the expense of American workers.

“I feel obliged to unambiguously restate our position: Jeep production will not be moved from the United States to China,” Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne said Tuesday. “Jeep assembly lines will remain in operation in the United States and will constitute the backbone of the brand.”

Taken as a whole, the situation gets at a larger trend seen by polling of likely voters in the battleground states of Florida, Ohio and Virginia. They rate Romney higher on his leadership qualities, but consider Obama to be much more trustworthy, according to the survey by Quinnipiac University for The New York Times and CBS News that was released Wednesday.

The Jeep ad reinforces the negative sentiments about Romney’s candor, while the hurricane gives Obama the chance to close the gap on leadership.  Only 45 percent of Virginians consider Romney to be honest, while 64 percent say he has strong leadership qualities. Obama received a 55 percent backing from Virginians on leadership and 53 percent on trustworthiness. Those results are mirrored in Ohio and Florida

The polls do confirm that the race has tightened over the past month, as Obama’s advantage with women voters has narrowed.  His decisive leads in Florida and Virginia have been erased to the point where they fall within the margin of error. He is ahead of Romney 48 percent to 47 percent in Florida, and 49 percent to 47 percent in Virginia. The president has maintained his 55 percent to 45 percent edge in Ohio.

"After being subjected to what seems like a zillion dollars' worth of television ads and personal attention from the two candidates reminiscent of a high-school crush, the key swing states of Florida and Virginia are too close to call with the election only days away," said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Qu