Just when you thought it was safe to breathe a sigh of relief . . .

I’m feeling reasonably sanguine about Obama’s chances of winning, but in the last couple of hours I’ve heard a few things that are making me slightly nervous. I’m not panicking, but let’s just say I’m incrementally more . . . uncomfortable than I was earlier in the day.

— The first item is the least consequential. At a rally in Ohio on Friday, Obama, paraphrasing the well-known aphorism “Living well is the best revenge,” told a crowd of supporters that “Voting is the best revenge.” It’s a completely benign and unexceptional comment, except, of course, to wingnuts, who predictably are ginning up a full-blown hissy fit over it. Byron York is describing Obama’s remark as “ugly and small-minded” — get out the smelling salts! Powerline’s John Hinderaker writes that it’s a “reminder of Obama’s dark side” (Is HInderaker’s racist pun intentional here? You be the judge!). And the Romney campaign was quick to pounce on the remarks, creating a video called “Revenge or Love of Country,” which implies that the president’s comments were somehow anti-American and unpatriotic.

I seriously doubt that Obama’s harmless comments will cost him any votes, except perhaps from people who were already looking for any excuse not to vote for him anyway. Still, the media has been known to mindlessly chase a silly story like this like my dog Hildy chases squirrels, and no candidate likes any distractions, even manufactured ones, from his preferred message, especially in the crucial last hours of the campaign.

— The second item I saw is actually much more worrying. ThinkProgress is reporting that Ohio’s Republican Secretary of State, Jon Husted, has issued a directive that stops just short of giving election officials full permission to invalidate provisional ballots for any arbitrary reason that pops into their heads:

The directive, issued Friday, lays out the requirements for submitting a provisional ballot. The directive includes a form which puts the burden on the voter to correctly record the form of ID provided to election officials. Husted also instructed election officials that if the form is not filled out correctly by a voter, the ballot should not be counted.

These shenanigans are straight out of the Republican Voter Suppression 101 playbook. Husted’s directive directly contradicts a court decision issued last week concerning Ohio’s provisional ballots, and it also seems to contradict both the letter and the spirit of the law. ThinkProgress rightly describes this development as an “11th-hour move” that “could swing the entire election.” Ohio, of course, is the swingiest of swing states, and it’s widely thought that the outcome there could determine the results of the election. Voting rights advocates have filed a lawsuit to reverse Husted’s directive; let’s hope the courts invalidate it in time for before Election Day.

— Finally, there’s this: I am a New Jersey native and my entire family of origin — three brothers, sister, parents — still lives in the state, in the northern and north-central suburbs. Earlier today I had a long discussion with one of my brothers about how things are going there, post-Sandy. He said that things are still fairly chaotic. My family is fine, thank God, but various members, such as my parents, are still without power. There are gas lines that last for hours, Governor Christie has just implemented odd/even gas days (now there’s a blast from the past!). My brother said that even if you do get gas, there aren’t many places you can go — many roads are blocked off and access is restricted at a lot of places. He teaches in the public schools, which were closed all this week but are scheduled to re-open on Monday.

All of this has me alarmed — does this sound like a state that will be ready to hold an election on Tuesday? And how is it possible that conditions like these could fail to depress turnout? New Jersey, like the two other states that have been most affected by Sandy (Connecticut and New York), is a solid blue state, and I worry that ballot access problems and low turnout in these places could cut into Obama’s popular vote and weaken his mandate, to the extent that he has one. This is a story that bears keeping an eye on.

Kathleen Geier

Kathleen Geier is a writer and public policy researcher who lives in Chicago. She blogs at Inequality Matters. Find her on Twitter: @Kathy_Gee