Hurricane Matthew is leaving a devastating and deadly trail as it makes its way towards the Florida coast in the US. While the storm is poised to wreck havoc on the East Coast, it could also cause damage to the campaigns of the two leading presidential candidates, with just over a month to go before the election on 8 November 2016.
The storm has led to calls of a state of emergency as it approaches the Sunshine State. The National Hurricane Center predicts the eye of the storm will move closer to or over the east coast of Florida. This is particularly crucial, not just for the livelihoods of the residents living along the eastern coast but for Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump's campaigns.
Potentially displaced residents could affect pollsters as well as election turnout. Clinton's campaign is asking Florida officials to extend the state's 11 October 2016 voter registration deadline for all last-minute sign-ups, campaign manager Robby Mook said on Thursday (6 October) according to CNN.
"The one thing that we are hoping and expecting is that officials in Florida will adapt deadlines to account for the storm," Mook said.
The potentially devastating storm will also affect campaign efforts as they avoid the state in the following days. "We're very mindful of the fact that a visit at the wrong time, when people are really focused on keeping themselves safe, would be a real distraction," Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine said.
Clinton aides announced that field offices across the state are closed as campaign workers are evacuated. Meanwhile, Republican National Committee political director Chris Carr told CNN that the party suspended its voter contacts in Florida "so that our staff can make plans in preparation for the storm."
Given its current projection, Matthew appears likely to hit the very areas where likely Democratic voters in Florida tend to live. Talking Points Memo noted that the state's Democratic voters are concentrated on the southern coastal strip in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties —precisely the area Matthew is projected to hit.
Both candidates have a lot riding on Florida. The latest poll by Emerson has Trump winning the state by 1%, though a RealClearPolitics average in the state has Clinton up by 2.4%.
Calculations by FiveThirtyEight reported Clinton has a 65.8% chance of winning the state against Trump's 34.1% chance of winning.