The Core Beliefs of Millions of Voters Has Shifted

So what will the history books of the future tell us about the influence of Hurricane Sandy on the Romney-Obama presidential election of 2012? Could it really have been that a million voters changed their minds in the final days of the campaign because--well, because Obama just looked so presidentially helpful while talking to storm victims in New Jersey?

Such is the stuff of political analysis. Exit poll data were all over the landscape as voters told how the hurricane had affected their behavior. So to the extent that I get to be an analyst, I suggest that historians--and current pundits too--be very careful in explaining the storm's ultimate effect on the electoral tally board. The most prevalent query was whether Hurricane Sandy had interrupted some significant Romney momentum in the week just before the election. But folks who were upset with that development had to ask themselves: "What was God up to in sending such a storm right then? Didn't he know how badly a hurricane might hurt the Romney campaign?" The debate was partly political, partly historical, partly meteorological, partly theological.

In fact, right now is a good time to set aside almost all purely political explanations of what happened in our country on Election Day. Yah, I know it was a presidential election--and collectively, we just spent several billion dollars trying to fine-tune an incredibly complex political process. But in the end, the 2012 election wasn't all that much about such technical processes. It wasn't about hurricanes, and it wasn't mostly about President Obama's mean-spirited campaign style, or about Romney's failure to respond adequately. It wasn't about anonymous donors, and it wasn't about how the Republicans blew what should have been an easy challenge. All those are side issues, and we shouldn't waste too much time and energy wondering "if we'd only done this" or "if we'd only done that."

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Joel Belz
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