Hurricane Sandy’s battering of the East Coast is expected to produce historic rainfall totals and cause billions of dollars in damage and wholesale disruptions to the close presidential race. The storm could also provide a moment of sharp contrast between President Obama and Mitt Romney and how their different ideas of governing apply to the federal response to large-scale disasters.
Obama has been aggressive about bolstering the federal government’s capability to respond to disasters, while his Republican challenger believes that states should be the primary responders in such situations and has suggested that disaster response could be privatized.
Obama campaigned four years ago on a promise to revamp the federal government’s disaster-
response functions and has embraced changes long sought by state governors and professional emergency managers. Since becoming president, he has led the federal response to multiple natural disasters, including tornadoes, flooding and major hurricanes, learning from government stumbles during the presidency of George W. Bush — most notably in the case of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Obama’s posture has been to order federal agencies to aggressively prepare for and respond to major storms and other disasters.