A margin-of-error election

Hurricane Sandy

Hurricane Sandy significantly improved President Obama’s job approval numbers. Exit polling placed the president at 54% job approval. Pre-storm polling averages had Obama’s approval hovering around 49%. The Rasmussen presidential approval index had the president’s “strong approval” number at 36% in the days following Hurricane Sandy. The last time Obama’s strong approval number hit that level? June 17, 2009.

Voters also told exit pollsters that Hurricane Sandy had influenced their votes. The president received rave reviews on his handling of the storm, and over 60% of voters said it had some impact on how they voted.

Still, the Republican Party has its work cut out. Republicans need to get started on minority outreach — today. This will not be easy, and it will take time. George W. Bush started this in the early 2000s with his voucher plan, faith-based initiatives, and foreign assistance to Africa. The signs of progress evident in the 2002 and 2004 elections dissipated in the later years of the administration as attention turned to the Iraq War and the recession.

Despite the problems Republicans face, the 2012 election was ultimately decided by campaign fundamentals and an event beyond either party’s control. Republicans should keep this in mind as they dig themselves out of the rubble.

Brandon J. Gaylord, the editor-in-chief of HorseRacePolitics.com, is a graduate of George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management. Brandon got his start in politics as an intern in Vice President Richard Cheney’s Office of Political Affairs.