There is reason to think Hurricane Sandy will hurt the president's reelection chances:
"The pretty strong pattern turns out to be that all other things being equal, the incumbent party does less well when it's too wet or too dry," says Larry Bartels, a professor of political science at Vanderbilt University. In 2004, Bartels and his then-colleague Christopher H. Achen, who's now a professor at Princeton, authored a study on the impact of climate on elections. According to their study, Al Gore lost an estimated 2.8 million votes to George W. Bush in certain states because of drought or excessive rain. These are votes, the study dryly points out, that Gore could have used.
But other research suggests that official responses matter:
We find that electorates punish presidents and governors for severe weather damage. However, we find that these effects are dwarfed by the response of attentive electorates to the actions of their officials. When the president rejects a request by the governor for federal assistance, the president is punished and the governor is rewarded at the polls.
John Sides doubts that "early voters who are stymied by Sandy would then fail to vote later on, including on Election Day":
I don’t think this is likely. What the literature on “convenience voting” suggests is that measures like vote-by-mail and early voting tend to make it easier for habitual voters to vote, rather than stimulating turnout from marginal or infrequent voters.
Nate Cohn suspects that Sandy is worse for Romney:
The clock is ticking for Mr. Romney and Hurricane Sandy probably won't help. Yes, Sandy will interfere with GOTV efforts and television advertisements in Democratic-leaning stretches of northern and eastern Virginia, but the media will be distracted from the race and Romney will be denied crucial time to mount a comeback.
And Ed Kilgore notes that power outages could stop "tens of millions of dollars worth of political messages" from being received.
(Photo: Water floods a street ahead of Hurricane Sandy on October 29, 2012 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Governor Chris Christie’s emergency declaration is shutting down the city’s casinos and 30,000 residents were ordered to evacuate. By Mario Tama/Getty Images)