Sandy's Scope and Obama's Reaction Set Storm Apart Historically

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Hurricane Sandy blew the best laid plans of the campaigns to the wind this week, but her bad timing in an election year isn't what makes her unique. It's Sandy's scope -- and the candidates' reactions -- that set this storm apart from the rest.

In the past 10 elections, 23 states received presidential declarations of a weather emergency within a month of Election Day, according to data from FEMA. For most of those weather-related disasters only one or two states were hit, with a few exceptions.

In 2008, seven states received declarations between Oct. 8 and Oct. 31.

One of the crises that year might have helped then-Sen. Barack Obama's chances in the election. Hurricane Ike caused at least 500,000 gallons of oil to leak into the ocean and wetlands in Texas and Louisiana when it hit the coast in the beginning of September, according to Good Housekeeping. The article linked the spill with the Republican presidential nominee, Sen. John McCain's, strong support for off-shore drilling, something Obama said he would only promote under certain stipulations.

Prior to the previous election, three states were hit by severe storms in October.

In 1996, Maine, Massachusetts and New Hampshire received federal help to offset the damage caused by a nor'easter.

In the past four days, President Obama has signed emergency declarations for 11 states and the District of Columbia -- an area that includes almost a quarter of the country's total population.

With this storm, Obama made the call more quickly than some past presidents.

About half a day after water stopped working in Galveston, Texas, in September 2008, President Bush declared parts of Louisiana and Texas disaster areas for the first time, according to the Galveston Daily News. Bush would authorize more funds for Ike relief in Arkansas and Ohio one month later.

At the end of October in 1996, wet, windy weather hit New England hard. More than a foot of rain fell in Maine within two days, and it pelted New Hampshire and Massachusetts, as well.

When that severe storm caused record-breaking water levels in streams and lakes around the area, President Clinton waited two days before declaring a state of emergency in Maine and two more days to issue a major disaster declaration in certain counties.

But Obama made his first declaration earlier than both Bush and Clinton -- on Sunday, Oct. 27, before Sandy's rains had even reached much of the Northeast. Rather than continue with his regular campaign schedule, Obama headed back to D.C., where he has remained.

While cleanup efforts were still underway in New England, a photograph of President Clinton showed him studying a magazine on Air Force One with then-Georgia Gov. Zell Miller and then-Sen. Sam Nunn of Georgia.

By contrast, the White House released a photo Monday of President Obama on a videoconference call with FEMA.

Both presidential candidates have remade their campaigns to match the seriousness of the storm in the past few days.

More photos released by the campaign show Vice President Joe Biden and President Obama being briefed on the situation in states hit by Sandy. Instead of holding a campaign event Tuesday, Obama held a conference call with governors and mayors of states affected by the hurricane and met with the Red Cross in Washington.

In 2008, Obama cancelled his appearance on "Saturday Night Live" in the wake of Hurricane Ike.

Romney's so-called "Victory Rally" in Dayton, Ohio, Tuesday morphed into a relief effort, free of campaign signs and full of pleas for donations to the Red Cross. Read more about Romney's delicate balance between campaign and charity here.