Hurricane Sandy altered the physical landscape -- and it also changed the political and media outlook for the closing days of New Jersey's campaign for U.S. Senate.
Incumbent Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and his Republican challenger, state Sen. Joe Kyrillos (R-Monmouth) both tried to avoid obvious politicking, canceling or postponing campaign events and advertising, while maintaning high profiles.
As with so much else in the campaign, that was easier for the incumbent Menendez. Just doing his job as a senator, Menendez was among the group of officials and polticians touring stricken Shore communities with President Barack Obama and Gov. Chris Christie, reassuring local residents and officials.
For Kyrillos, whose legislative district includes some hard-hit areas, the task was to call attention to his constituents' needs while maintaining some semblance of his underdog campaign's plan for a closing push. As of Wednesday afternoon, the Kyrillos campaign was scrambling to salvage what it could of a planned 21-county campaign tour and to revive a planned burst of pre-Election Day advertising.
Kyrillos' campaign said his focus was shifted to "a weeklong survey of Hurricane Sandy's devastation" while the Menendez campaign said the senator was "100 percent focused on New Jersey's needs in the aftermath of the storm."
Even before the devastating super-storm jumbled the picture, Menendez enjoyed the advantages of incumbency and financing.
Prime-time television viewers tuning in to “Dancing with the Stars,” “Revenge” or “Castle,” might see a familiar face -- Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ).
The incumbent is not tripping the light fantastic, plotting harm or solving crime. But in the closing weeks of his re-election campaign, Menendez has begun spending the funds in his impressive war chest on some high-profile advertising buys, even in the expensive New York and Philadelphia markets, even while he holds a double-digit lead over GOP opponent Joe Kyrillos.
Menendez's 30-second spots, detailing his rise from a humble background, are covering the airwaves, including national news and interview programs as well as syndicated favorites like “Jeopardy” and “Wheel of Fortune.”
As Hurricane Sandy approached, Menendez started showing up on The Weather Channel, surrounded by smiling children as he cheerfully talked about his support for education.
Kyrillos, a Republican state senator from Monmouth County, also pops up in the pauses of the game shows, for 15 seconds at a time. But to catch a Kyrillos spot otherwise, it helps to like local news or to be up by 6 a.m. or after 11 p.m.
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