A week from now, American voters will decide what is looking like being an extremely close presidential race between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.
Barack Obama appeared to be on track for a comfortable victory as he gained a solid lead over Romney following the Democratic convention in September. This seemed steady until the first presidential debate in October, when Mitt Romney gained a decisive victory over President Obama.
Shortly after the debate, Romney’s poll numbers improved, and the race has been largely steady since then.
Different factors can point to different possible results, but the overall picture makes it pretty clear – this race is about as close as it can get. The Real Clear Politics polling average has Romney leading Obama by 0.9%. Five Thirty Eight’s forecast predicts an Obama win by 1.7%, and gives Obama a 74.6% chance of victory.
In the key states, this close race is played out. Romney appears to have a narrow lead in the swing state of Florida, while most of the attention appears to have focused on winning the state of Ohio. Some polls favour one candidate over another, but overall the picture is very unclear.
This election follows two elections in the last twelve years when the race was close to being a tie. George W Bush won in 2000 despite losing the popular vote. Bush won the popular vote in 2004 but came close to losing thanks to a very close race in Ohio.
With these polls, it seems quite likely that this race could come down to one state, or could result in an electoral college result which doesn’t match the popular vote winner.
While this race gains all the attention, both the US Senate and the House of Representatives are closely contested. The Republicans gained control of the House of Representatives with a wave of victories in 2010. While they are likely to maintain their majority, a number of their seats are under serious threat.
Meanwhile the Democrats were at serious risk of losing their majority in the Senate. However it now appears likely that the Democrats could increase their numbers in the Senate, with a number of Republican Senate seats at risk.
Over the next week I plan to post a few more times about features of the US election, and next Wednesday, Australian time, I will be blogging as the results come in.