An asteroid crashed to earth where Kansas used to be today, killing thousands, leaving a smoking hole stretching 80,000 square miles, and further complicating an already tight presidential race.

“This could have a huge impact, but it’s hard to know which way things will break,” said Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics. “Ultimately, the election is probably going to come down to who gets the most votes. Asteroids, in some sense, are just rocks. They don’t vote, and they never have.”

A senior Kerry advisor, who asked not to be named because he believes names are a meaningless construct, agrees. “No chance in hell we were going to win Kansas anyway,” he said.

Nevertheless, each candidate’s surrogates are already trying to make political hay of the meteor’s arrival. “John Kerry was for the meteor before he was against it,” sneered a high-level Bush advisor who asked not to be named, a request her parents complied with. “His non-stop, metrosexual flip-floppery sends mixed signals to whomever was behind this heinous attack.”

Pentagon officials stressed that while they suspect Mother Nature in the assault, they had no evidence that Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda were not involved. “Certainly, we can’t rule anything out,” said a Pentagon spokesperson. “It seems unlikely — what with Saddam in jail — but, you know, never say never.”

At a news conference early this afternoon, Kerry denied charges that he had once favored the meteor. “Who among us doesn’t value the many occasions on which meteors don’t hit our majestic land, when they don’t shake the terra firma beneath our feet?” he said.

When pressed as to whether the tragedy would transcend political considerations, Kerry intoned, “Would that it were, Jodi. Would that it were.”

At a later campaign stop, Kerry criticized President Bush’s initial handling of the situation, though he never mentioned that the meteor’s impact was not the result of the president’s space policy.

Though the damage wrought by the meteor is said to be horrific, some officials argue that the media is failing to report the good news to come out of the impact. Others say there wasn’t a meteor at all.

According to a poll by Zogby International, 45 percent of uncommitted voters are more likely to vote for Kerry as a result of the impact, compared with only 23 percent for Bush. The meteor has particularly helped Kerry among security moms, who previously doubted his manhood.

“I’d be surprised if the meteor didn’t give Kerry a 15-point boost in the polls,” said Bush campaign pollster Matthew Dowd. “He’s the most talented exploiter of meteors since Gallileo.”

Dowd’s public forecasts have tended to be relatively accurate.

Brian Montopoli

Brian Montopoli is a writer at CJR Daily.