The commentary on Sandy's effect on the election has mostly restricted itself to how the images of Obama playing healer-in-chief will help his chances. But the president may benefit from the recovery effort in a more profound way. That's the message of this astoundingly prescient piece of research, summarised in the Boston Globe in August of this year:
With his reelection far from certain, President Obama is spending huge amounts of time and money campaigning. But what he could really use is a hurricane...in a swing state. A political scientist at the University of Michigan compared the records of FEMA disaster assistance in the aftermath of the 2004 hurricane season in Florida to voting records in that state. Receipt of disaster assistance, especially in the week before the election, made Republicans more likely to turn out to vote for the incumbent (George W. Bush, a Republican) and made Democrats less likely to turn out. Also, precincts that got more aid gave President Bush a greater share of the vote.
Having said that, Sandy didn't really affect swing states, with the partial exception of Pennsylvania.
Original paper here.