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From Hope to Despair
The election of the President and Vice President of the United States is an indirect vote in which citizens cast ballots for a slate of members of the U.S. Electoral College. Once the popular votes are counted, the candidate who wins in each state is assigned all of the electoral votes assigned to that state. In order to win the presidential election a candidate has to win 270 of the total 538 electoral votes. The past several years’ voting patterns indicate that while the majority of voters tend to vote predictably for the Democratic or Republican Party, a small number of states have emerged as swing states, where political issues of the day could sway the result either ways. In 2012 Presidential election Colorado, Florida, Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin have emerged as the swing states. In 2000, George Bush’s highly controversial victory against Al Gore came down to 537 popular vote lead assigned to George Bush in the state of Florida. In 2004, President Bush’ victory over John Kerry was sealed by 20 electoral votes of the state of Ohio.
Barack Obama broke this precarious balance of power between the Democratic and Republican vote in the 2008 presidential election. Obama received 365 electoral votes (as opposed to McCain’s 173), and in doing so, Obama received the most votes for a presidential candidate in American history. People’s anger towards Bush and his decisions surrounding the Iraq war, the hardships brought about by the sub-prime mortgage crisis, and the hope generated by Obama’s brilliant campaign for change united the nation behind Obama.
Now in the 2012 presidential election, swing states are back in play. Three months before the presidential election, various polls indicate that Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are locked in a tie. Two key factors will determine the ultimate
outcome this year: will the loyal supporters of the two parties come out to vote for their respective candidates, and who will the swing states and the independents vote for? Let us examine the ground realities:
The republican base is not enthusiastic about Mitt Romney. Romney had to select an ardently conservative vice presidential candidate—Paul Ryan— to cajole the Republican base. As per recent polls, his selection has not had any statistically significant impact on the Republican base yet. Obama’s middle of the road policies and failure to implement his promised “change” has disappointed the democratic base. Though they realize that the damage caused to the economy by Bush era policies cannot be fixed in a short four years, the Democrats are faced with a demoralizing, weak economy that has put immense hardships on the working class voters. Republicans see this election as an opportunity to get back at “enemy number one” of conservative values. They dislike Obama because they see him as a socialist, anti-rich, pro-gay, pro-choice ideologue who is incapable of bringing back consumer confidence in capitalist economy. It is not surprising that Mitt Romney, who is in trouble with the conservative voters, did not chose to represent the ethnic diversity of the United states on his ticket or bring in a woman as his running mate, though there were many options available to him in his short list of potential candidates, foremost of them being Marco Rubio of Florida.
However it is still unclear whether the democratic fear of seeing a Republican president back in the White House will bring them out to vote. Obama’s campaign managers have their work cut out for them. Independent voters, who traditionally value moderate economic policies and liberal social values may exercise their judgment differently in each state depending on which issue sways their voting decision. While Paul Ryan, with his extreme conservative views, could push independent voters towards Obama in some states, the lack of a clear economic program for revival of American economy could turn some voters
towards Mitt Romney, who is counting on his ability to manage corporate operations as his core credentials.
The winner in November will most likely be decided by a narrow margin. Obama may still have a shot at delivering the change he promised, if he manages to win the swing states. While the two candidates indulge in a slugfest, the atmosphere on the ground level has shifted from the hope of 2008 to the despair of 2012.
This article was written for the editorial page of the “Sakal” group of newspapers published from India.