NEW YORK -- On Monday, CNN plans to kick off its end-of-the-election series, "The Final Battlegrounds," with over two-dozen correspondents dispatched across eight pivotal states for the 2012 campaign's eight remaining days.
But CNN executives, who have long been preparing for the election's final frenzied days, are now grappling with simultaneously covering Hurricane Sandy -- a powerful storm that could cause havoc on the East Coast and disrupt campaigns' plans going into the home stretch -- and the final week of the election.
“CNN will be in position to sustain live coverage of the storm 24 hours a day and we will maintain our reporting in the battleground states that aren't immediately affected by the storm," said CNN senior vice president of programming Bart Feder, in a statement to The Huffington Post. "But clearly the storm will be the priority for at least 36 hours."
News organizations faced a similar situation two months ago when another case of extreme weather, Hurricane Isaac, was on track to collide with a major political event, the Republican National Convention. Aside from cutting the convention a day short, Isaac veered west and ended up having little influence on the festivities in Tampa.
It's unclear what impact Sandy will have once it makes landfall, but news organizations are already tweaking some plans.
Given construction restrictions in New York City, NBC has postponed Tuesday's opening of "Democracy Plaza" -- a interactive backdrop for the network's Decision 2012 coverage -- at its iconic Rockefeller Center location. It's now expected to open on Friday, and will be part of Election Night coverage as planned on Nov. 6.
As for the next couple days, David Verdi, senior vice president of newsgathering, told The Huffington Post that the networks of NBC Universal -- which includes NBC, MSNBC, Telemundo, and The Weather Channel -- are prepared for both major news events and have "unprecedented resources to cover a storm of this magnitude." Given such resources, Verdi said NBC has "not [changed] our campaign coverage at all" to accommodate the storm.
Similarly, the CNN correspondents who are already on the ground to cover battleground states like Colorado and Iowa will remain there, while separate reporters head out to cover Sandy and its aftermath. But whether or not networks are forced to re-route campaign correspondents to cover Sandy, it's clear the storm will play a role in the final full week of campaign coverage, with questions swirling about candidates' swing state travel plans and get-out-the-vote efforts.
Candy Crowley, host of CNN's "State of The Union," began her Sunday interview with top Obama adviser David Axelrod by asking how the storm could affect voting in the battleground state of Virginia. "Well, the first thing I think we should say is we're most concerned about people," Axelrod said, later adding that "in terms of how it affects the election, I don't think anybody really knows."
The political ramifications of the storm were a hot topic on the Sunday morning public affairs shows, four of which began their broadcasts with weather center updates or correspondents on the beach. Before host David Gregory had NBC political director Chuck Todd size up the electoral map on Sunday's "Meet The Press," he turned first to Al Roker in Asbury Park for the latest on Hurricane Sandy.
Gregory, along with his Sunday show counterpart on ABC's "This Week," George Stephanopoulos, dubbed Sandy the election's "October Surprise," the media's preferred term for a late-in-the-cycle event with the potential to shake up the race.