Hurricane Sandy Did Not Affect the 2012 Election, But It Affected 2016

1st of 5 parts on climate change and real estate


We’ve heard that Hurricane Sandy may have slowed

Mitt Romney’s momentum in the 11th hour and hurt his electoral chances. That can’t be right. Which of the storm‑affected states was Romney about to win? New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Pennsylvania? And how could

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Sandy have cost Romney votes in some places that were hundreds of miles out of range (Iowa, Wisconsin, Ohio, Virginia, Florida), but not others (Missouri, Indiana, West Virginia, North Carolina)? Hard to see the logic.

Storm Damage

But if Sandy was not instrumental in Romney’s defeat, it was still fraught with political meaning. Hurricane Sandy exposed the political vulnerability of laissez faire environmental policy. In this respect, it is cumulative with Hurricane Katrina. Climate change has entered our politics. It will influence the next election and those that follow. It will influence our economy — certainly the real estate industry — and our attitude about

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what we want government to do.


In a 2011 candidates’ debate — with Katrina, Irene, and Ike still vivid in memory — Romney was asked whether the states should take on more of FEMA’s role. He answered:

Absolutely. Every time you have an occasion to take something from the federal government and send it back to the states, that’s the right direction. And if you can go even further and send it back to the private sector, that’s even better.… We cannot afford to do [disaster relief] without jeopardizing the future for our kids.

Fifteen months later, Sandy made this line of reasoning sound crazy all over again.



And worse, with rain from Hurricane Isaac still falling, Romney was mocking environmental protection in a nationally televised speech to the Republican Convention:

President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans. (LAUGHTER) And to heal the planet. My promise is to help you and your family.

Eight weeks later, nobody saw the humor in

Hurricane Sandy.

A New Wind Blowing

During the storm, Chris Christie was a living, breathing rebuke to Mitt Romney and to both of the major tenets of Republican environmental

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doctrine. Markedly separating himself from the Bush-Jindal response to Katrina, Christie made clear that this matter is deadly serious and that only the government is capable of acting effectively. He simply dismissed the basic attitudes of Romney and the rest of his party. In a literal sense, Christie had no time for them, and vast majorities of the public agreed with him. For this humiliation of his party, and not for any compliments he paid to President Obama, Governor Christie has been subject to Republican anger.

The episode makes clear, however, that for Christie or any other Republican to have a chance in 2016, the GOP will have to make a wrenching policy reversal on the environment. It will have to accept the reality of climate science and the need for substantial environmental regulation. Democrats — by no means exemplary on climate — are still far ahead of Republicans, and the GOP cannot stay where it is on this issue if it hopes to gain votes nationally. With each passing year, the public will become less inclined to laugh this off.

By the same token, real estate investors who reside in the fact-based world must understand that environmental policy and public opinion are moving toward science and toward increased regulation. Whatever their politics, investors are compelled by their business interests to understand and accept the greening of real estate.

Part 1 of 5