According to a new poll released last night, Republican Mitt Romney is winning the White House race among Americans who have already voted.
Mitt Romney has opened up a seven point lead among the 15% who have cast their votes early.
Pollster Gallup says Mitt Romney has more ballots in the bank than President Barack Obama by a margin of 52% to 45%.
As many as a third of Americans are likely to go to the polls before Election Day on November 6.
Gallup still has the two candidates in a dead heat at 49% among likely voters as the race enters its final week.
With Hurricane Sandy throwing both men’s campaigns into chaos, the early voters could prove to be even more crucial in the final outcome than in previous years.
Barack Obama and Mitt Romney both called off rallies yesterday as Hurricane Sandy bore down on East Coast.
The president cancelled a planned appearance in Orlando, Florida to return to Washington and monitor the weather crisis. He also shelved a trip to Green Bay, Wisconsin scheduled for Tuesday.
Mitt Romney followed suit, pulling out of all campaigning yesterday evening and throughout Tuesday, along with his running mate Paul Ryan.
Damage from the storm is projected at around $18 billion and Barack Obama has declared it a “major disaster”.
But neither rival could afford to totally shut down operations. The political barbs continued in campaign ads and between aides trying to show the upper hand in a race as tight as ever.
At a White House press conference on Monday Barack Obama dismissed a question about how the hurricane will affect the election, saying: “I’m not worried about the impact on the election. The election will take care of itself next week.”
At a campaign event in Iowa, Michelle Obama said of her husband: “He has made this storm his priority, and he is going to do whatever it takes to make sure the American people are safe and secure.”
Republican Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell said his state plans to extend early voting hours and restore power quickly to election facilities in the event of outages.
Officials in neighboring Maryland said early voting stations were closed yesterday.
Officials from both campaigns said they were confident they would be able to get their message out and drive voters to the polls over the coming days. But they recognized that, after years of obsessive planning and nearly $2 billion in campaign expenditures, the storm had introduced a last-minute element of chaos.
“There’s certain things we can’t control and nature is one of them. We try to focus on the things that we can control,” said Mitt Romney adviser Kevin Madden.
There is some evidence that natural disasters can hurt an incumbent’s re-election chances as voters often blame whoever is in office for adversity.