WASHINGTON - Superstorm Sandy has left America's political leadership deaf and blind in the critical final days of many hard-fought campaigns that will determine control of the White House and the U.S. Senate.
Public opinion polling operations were disrupted Monday and Tuesday because the storm cut power and telecommunication services to millions of voters in the Northeast and in the battleground states of Ohio and Virginia.
As a result of the storm, the Gallup Poll has suspended its daily tracking of the presidential race.
"There is so much disruption that it would not be an accurate rendering of what is going on," said Frank Newport, editor-in-chief for the Gallup Organization based in Princeton, N.J. "The latest estimates are that up to 8 million people don't have power. When you call into our office here at Princeton, you get: ‘All circuits are busy'."
Campaign polls have generally shown that President Barack Obama lost a small but significant lead following the first televised debate, Oct. 3. The race has been a draw in recent days.
A national survey released Monday by the Pew Research Center showed Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney tied at 47 percent each among likely voters. But polls generally shut down Monday night, making it impossible to know if voters are reaching a new consensus in the final, turbulent days of the campaign.
"Everyone in our business is concerned about this (storm-caused disruption) and is trying to do evaluations as to what the impact might be," said Scott Keeter, polling director for Pew. "We had a call yesterday with our field operations to determine if we need to delay the start of the next poll or make some accommodation for the bias because of the kinds of households we are missing. We are in a kind of wait-and-see mode."
The storm has also disrupted polling for key U.S. Senate races in Massachusetts, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia -- races considered too close to call.
Democrats are trying to hold on to a three-seat Senate majority, counting two independent senators who support them.
(Contact Scripps Howard News Service correspondent Thomas Hargrove at firstname.lastname@example.org.)