Obama to resume US election campaign

WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama is to resume an election campaign which was suspended in the aftermath of storm Sandy, which wreaked havoc in the north eastern US.

Obama visited storm-hit New Jersey on Wednesday, while Republican rival Mitt Romney has been holding rallies after restarting his own campaign.

Meanwhile, New York’s first subway trains set off since Monday, when the network closed for the storm.
Sandy left at least 64 dead in the US, laying waste in much of the east coast.

It cut power from millions of homes and paralysed the transport system.

The storm made landfall on Monday night in New Jersey, where 20 000 people remain trapped in their homes by sewage-contaminated flood water.

In New York City, the storm brought a record tidal surge that swamped the subway system and caused widespread blackouts.

Earlier, it killed nearly 70 people in the Caribbean and caused extensive crop destruction in impoverished Haiti.

New York has begun a slow recovery from the storm.

Subway trains started running again at around 05:30 yesterday, but services were limited and there were no trains in lower Manhattan.

The New York Times reported that trains were relatively empty.

Many bus services are already back on the roads, and most of the city’s bridges have re-opened.

But the newspaper said there was severe congestion in the streets, and buses were extremely slow and crowded.

New York State governor Andrew Cuomo has announced that all fares on MTA commuter trains, subways and buses will be waived, in the hope of relieving traffic jams.

The New York Stock Exchange re-opened on generator power after two days of closure, along with the Nasdaq exchange.

But New York City’s Bellevue Hospital had to order the evacuation of some 500 patients after back-up electricity failed.

The Holland Tunnel, connecting New Jersey and New York City, remains flooded.

Flights have now resumed at JFK and Newark Liberty airports. The city’s LaGuardia airport is also expected to re-open. Nearly 20 000 flights were grounded by the storm.

Obama has planned campaign stops in Nevada, Colorado and Wisconsin.

On Wednesday, he toured parts of New Jersey struck by the storm with Republican Governor Chris Christie.
“You guys are in my thoughts and prayers,” he said during a visit at an emergency shelter in Atlantic City. “We are going to be here for the long haul.”

Of more than six million homes and businesses across the north east that still have no electricity, a third of them are in New Jersey.

In the New Jersey city of Hoboken, across the Hudson River from New York City, the National Guard has arrived to evacuate about 20 000 people and distribute meals.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, usually one of Obama’s fiercest critics, spoke of his “great working relationship” with the Democratic president.

“I cannot thank the president enough for his personal concern and compassion for the people of our state,” said Christie.

Romney held two rallies in Florida, where he tried to strike a “positive tone”.

Election day is on November 6, and polls suggest the candidates are running neck and neck.

Eight out of 10 voters in a Washington Post/ABC poll gave Obama an “excellent” or “good” rating for his handling of the emergency.

Political polling guru Nate Silver is so confident in his statistical models that he just offered to bet MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough $1 000 that Barack Obama will win re-election.

Scarborough, you may recall, criticised Silver’s math earlier this week, saying that “Anybody that thinks that this race is anything but a tossup right now is such an ideologue ... they are jokes.”

He was specifically talking about Silver’s FiveThirtyEight website, which shows Romney with just a one-in-four chance of becoming president.

Silver has spent the week firing back, criticising political pundits for not understanding how odds and probability work and aggressively defending his method against critics.

As the week has progressed, his model has only shown Obama’s chances of winning increasing, which has not coincidentally increased Silver’s confidence in the outcome.

The back-and-forth swipes all came to head today with this tweet, with Silver offering a friendly $1 000 wager result, with the winnings going to charity.

After that Politico story claiming Silver was putting his reputation on the line with this election, he’s making it clear that he’s willing to put more on the line than that. And he’s also clearly fed up with pundits who aren’t willing to put anything on the line to back up their numerous predictions.

Scarborough was not on the set of his MSNBC show this morning and has yet to respond, but he already has one wager riding on Tuesday’s vote.

Just yesterday, he agreed to a bet with Obama campaign adviser David Axelrod over their facial hair. (Axelrod will shave his mustache if Obama loses Michigan, Minnesota, or Pennsylvania. Scarborough will grow one if Romney loses Florida or North Carolina.)

With Superstorm Sandy leaving communities under water, stranding millions without power and consuming public resources in several states, could next Tuesday’s vote for president be moved to a later date?
But, partial postponements of voting in some affected areas are possible, consistent with the laws governing the election of the president and vice president.

When people go to the polls on Election Day, they are not voting directly for their choice for president or vice president.

Instead, they are voting to select representatives — or “electors” — to the Electoral College, the body that actually determines who will be president and vice president.

The constitution gives Congress the authority to determine “time” of choosing those electors.

In 1845, Congress passed a law that set the Tuesday immediately following the first Monday in November of every election year as the election day across the country.

The same law also gives states some leeway in picking electors to the Electoral College.

But to exercise that leeway, a state must have “held an election for the purpose of choosing electors,” and “failed to make a choice on the day prescribed by law.” When that happens, the law says “the electors may be appointed on a subsequent day in such manner as the legislature of such state may direct.”

Based on this, the Congressional Research Service, a federal agency that provides legislative research support to Congress, concluded in a 2004 report that a state could probably hold presidential voting on the election day in places unaffected by a natural disaster but postpone it until a later date in affected areas without violating federal law so long as the state met other legal requirements relating to electing the president and vice president.

But the law passed by Congress setting the election day only allows a state to pick its electors on a later date if it has already held an election on the election day and “failed to make a choice” on that day.

So a complete statewide postponement would arguably violate the 1845 law, the 2004 report suggested.
 
The report also pointed out that the Supreme Court has emphasised the role states play in selecting the presidential electors, so a state might be allowed to postpone an entire statewide vote for president in emergency circumstances like a hurricane or other natural disaster.

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