Wednesday, September 08, 2004

The Hurricane Factor

How will the devastation in Florida from Charley, Frances and potentially Ivan affect the presidential race? The Wall St. Journal has an interesting article on the subject.

Notably, in the counties most affected by Charley in the Southwest of Florida, the Bush to Gore voter ratio was 1.4 to 1; also, 2 out of the three counties hardest hit by Frances, on the Southeast coast of the state, overwhelmingly supported Bush in 2000.

The so-called Republican horseshoe, from Naples north to Interstate 4 and down to the affluent communities on Florida's eastern coast, is where three-fourths of the state's Republicans are concentrated. That area was hit twice by the storms.
The Wall St. Journal speculates about the impact of the aftermath of the hurricanes:

The federal government already is pouring in billions of aid dollars to help Florida's residents, and Gov. Jeb Bush, the president's brother,is taking personal responsibility for managing much of the relief effort. A rapid, well-coordinated response to the storms could lift the standing of both Bushes in the eyes of voters.

Late yesterday, Congress moved quickly to pass a $2 billion disaster-relief bill to ease the cash crunch facing the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Small Business Administration in responding to the hurricanes. A more detailed request, valued at $4 billion to $6 billion, could come from the administration as early as this week. That measure is expected to include specific highway and community development funds as well as more general disaster aid.

However much money is made available, most residents likely will be preoccupied during the two months before the election with rebuilding, relocations and personal frustrations.

In recent days, residents have been coping with gasoline shortages, power outages, torrential rains on homes already damaged by Charley and payments from relief agencies that have come more slowly than many hoped for. Another threat, Hurricane Ivan, looms in the Atlantic, with forecasters saying it could arrive by the weekend.

As a result, the outcome in the state, which President Bush won by a scant 537 votes in 2000, could hinge on whether voters are satisfied with federal aid to hurricane-affected areas -- and, perhaps more important, whether large numbers of voters in Republican bastions are too distracted by the storm's aftermath to boost the party's turnout.


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