US presidential race down to the wire
by Hoang Nhu Hoa
(VNS)The debates are over, but the world's most watched campaign remains essentially tied with only 11 days to go until the US presidential election on November 6.
|US President Barack Obama greets Republican candidate Mitt Romney at the start of the final debate at the Keith C and Elaine Johnson Wold Performing Arts Center at Lynn University on Monday in Boca Raton, Florida. — AFP/VNA Photo
Although American voters told pollsters this week that incumbent President Barack Obama bested his Republican challenger Mitt Romney in Monday's final debate, their opinions of each candidate did not shift significantly.
"This is going to be another ‘too close to call' US presidential election, something that we already witnessed in the 2000 race between Democratic candidate Al Gore and Republican candidate George W Bush," said Le Dinh Tinh, deputy director general of the Institute for Foreign Policy and Strategic Studies, the Diplomatic Academy of Viet Nam.
With the electorate strongly divided and most voters having already made up their minds, the battle is for a small sliver of persuadable voters in a few key states. And the minds of nearly all American voters appear to be focused on jobs and other economic essentials.
"The three debates demonstrate that the economy and jobs and not foreign policy or defence are playing the central role in this year's election," said Tinh. "Voters care more about the things that affect their daily lives."
The unemployment rate was the data most often mentioned the debates and in the campaigns of the two candidates. According to the US Labor Department's statistics released in early this month, the unemployment rate slid to 7.8 per cent in September, falling below 8 per cent for the first time since Obama's took office in 2009. The rate has fallen half-a-percentage point since July, when it was 8.3 per cent.
"The number was a good news for President Obama, giving him a narrow escape from a historic curse, since no president has ever been re-elected to the Oval Office by American voters when the jobless number was over 8 per cent," said Tinh.
With most Americans focused not on world affairs but on the slow pace of the US economic recovery, both Obama and Romney will spend the final days before the polls open appealing to the tiny remaining slice of undecided voters.
Since the presidency is not decided by a nationwide popular vote but in state-by-state contests, the key to victory lies in nine US states that do not reliably favour one party over the other. The US voting system made it possible for Gore to win the popular vote in 2000 yet still lose the election to Bush.
Obama holds onto a narrow advantage in this handful of battleground states, most notably Ohio, which has been buoyed by his bailout of the domestic auto industry.
But Romney appears to be firming up his lead in North Carolina, a state Obama had carried in 2008, and his campaign is pushing to put Democratic-leaning states like Wisconsin and Iowa into play.
Florida is also a critical swing state, and most polls there show Romney leading by a narrow margin.
Hours after the final debate, Obama told a big crowd in Florida that the "election is a matter of trust".
"There is no more serious issue in a presidential campaign than trust. The person who leads this country, you have got to have some confidence that he or she means what he or she says," Obama said on Wednesday.
In the closing days of the campaign, and responding to Republican criticism that he has not clearly articulated a plan for the next four years, Obama has released a 20-page booklet entitled Blueprint for America's Future to promote a second-term agenda.
The schedule of Romney and runningmate Paul Ryan reflects the strategy of driving up Republican vote totals in areas such as the Denver suburbs and Cincinnati, Ohio. They started their two-week dash to the finish line in Nevada, before moving to the Denver area.
"Our campaign is a growing movement across this country, where people recognise we're going to build a brighter future for the American family," Romney said in Reno, Nevada, on Wednesday. "We're coming together with more power and more energy."
Christopher Arterton, a professor of political management at George Washington University, was quoted by AFP as saying that both Obama and Romney had performed well in the debates but that the "ground game" in closely fought states would be decisive.
"We're really down to both sides mobilising whatever resources they have to get their voters to the polls, to do as much as they still can in the last two weeks door-to-door," Arterton said. — VNS