I have an uninformed hunch (the best/worst kind) that Hurricane Katrina could have had an impact on the German election. After all, for undecided voters in the last couple of weeks, Angela Merkel was offering a shift to a more Anglo-Saxon approach to economics and social issues. (I saw one German newspaper comment that the voters had rejected “Manchester economics”, shades of Friedrich Engels.) Well, the most visible example of the Anglo-Saxon approach in the run-up to the election was the woeful response of the US government to Katrina.
I think blaming the system is a mistake (see Philip Klinker’s excellent rebuttal of that approach), but I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s how a lot of undecided German voters saw it — encouraged by Gerhard Schroder’s trumpeting of the superior Rhineland system.