How Hurricane Matthew Could Hit Donald Trump Hard
With Hurricane Matthew barreling down and forecast to make landfall in Florida on Friday, both presidential candidates have turned their attention to the natural disaster. In fact, Hurricane Matthew is expected to cause such severe damage that it has actually managed to force Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump to the edges of the limelight in the news cycle, at least for the moment. However, Hurricane Matthew's force may also be felt on the presidential election itself. In particular, Trump could face political damage from Hurricane Matthew.
Specifically, Trump needs to be wary of the optical pitfalls that ensnared then-presidential candidate Mitt Romney in 2012 after Hurricane Sandy. A long-standing battle cry for Republicans has been to do away with government overspending and overreach. Rolling back the role of government and defunding certain agencies has been on the wish list for the GOP. But in 2012, Romney's calls to defund FEMA, which provides aid to disaster victims, came back to haunt him when Sandy made landfall in the Northeast just before the election. That, coupled with President Barack Obama's across-the-aisle hug with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, was the nail in the coffin for Romney's campaign, many said.
On Thursday, political analyst Nate Silver tweeted a compilation of some of Trump's tweets from around the time of Hurricane Sandy, which showed him urging people not to fall for Obama's "grandstanding" or let his calls to provide hurricane relief funds sway their vote.
In his long Hurricane Sandy Twitter diatribe, Trump tweeted in outrage that people, like Al Gore, would tie global warming to hurricanes (in fact, they are tied). He also tweeted that Obama was buying the election by handing out billions of dollars in federal aid — this is the aid that would be used to rebuild decimated homes and infrastructure. And he went from criticizing Obama for being with the victims of the storm to calling him out for "campaigning" while people were still displaced.
There are other political concerns for Trump tied to Hurricane Matthew. Some were quick to tie his tax issues with the impending storm. Speculation that Trump has not paid federal income taxes is rampant, following a New York Times report last week. This could lead to backlash for not contributing to funding government agencies that help the victims of natural disasters, like FEMA.
While Trump does own property in Florida, some also highlighted that he may be out-of-touch with what the everyman is dealing with in preparing for this storm.
Clinton and Trump need to tread carefully in the aftermath of this storm. Arriving too soon can look opportunistic and intrusive, and potentially pull resources away from administering aid. Assigning blame can look petty. Clinton has already drawn some criticism for airing campaign ads on the Weather Channel, which gets a bump in viewership during natural disasters. But considering his well-documented response to Hurricane Sandy, Trump will be hit harder than Clinton by Hurricane Matthew.