Mitt Romney is winning the White House race among Americans who have already voted, according to a new poll released last night.
The Republican challenger has opened up a seven point lead among the 15% who have cast their votes early.
Pollster Gallup says Mr Romney has more ballots in the bank than President Obama by a margin of 52% to 45%.
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.
Mr Obama and Mr Romney both called off rallies yesterday as the storm bore down on America’s East Coast.
Mr 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 £12billion and Mr 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 Mr 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 of itself next week.’
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 recognised that, after years of obsessive planning and nearly $2billion 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 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.
Source: The Daily Mail