Momentum returns to Obama: is it all over bar the insults?
Analysis of the all-important Electoral College votes points to President Obama winning tomorrow
HAS President Obama already won his second term? In a final twist to a befuddling American presidential election campaign, serious analysts are saying it's not the "neck and neck" race the headline writers are claiming, but a clear victory for Obama as long as the Democrats get the vote out tomorrow.
And how about this for a further element of confusion? It is estimated that up to 27 per cent of American voters have already cast their ballot, taking advantage of various early voting programmes for Americans living abroad and those with special needs.
This group is mainly made up of itinerants in search of work, soldiers in foreign wars, and ageing black folks in need of shepherding to the polls. In other words, mostly Democrats, and they are said to have been voting 50 to 48 per cent for Obama.
Back to tomorrow's vote and why some analysts are confident Obama will win.
Presidential elections are decided not by a simple one-man-one-vote plebiscite but by the Electoral College system under which each state is worth a set number of votes based on population. There are a total of 538 Electoral College votes up for grabs tomorrow and the candidate who gathers more than half - 270 – is the winner.
Hence the importance of the "swing states". We all know that New York (29 Electoral College votes) and California (55) will go Democrat, and that Texas (38) and Alabama (9) will go Republican, so in a close-run race the election will be decided by voters in the crucial battlegrounds of Florida (29), Virginia (13), Wisconsin (10), Iowa (6), Colorado (9), Nevada (6), New Hampshire (4) and Ohio (18).
What the specialists pollsters are saying – in a nutshell – is that even if Romney takes Florida and Virginia, polling analysis shows that Obama is ahead in all the others, including the most vital of all, Ohio, and that will be enough for him to win.
Sam Wang of Princeton Election Consortium said yesterday that Obama was "peeling ahead", going way past 270 votes with the possibility of hitting 320. All the tracking polls have been going Obama's way in the last 10 days, says Wang, and Romney has proved unable to reverse the trend. Game over.
The strongest consistent voice for the probability of an Obama win in the Electoral College has been Nate Silver with his FiveThirtyEight blog in the New York Times, named for the total number of Electoral College votes.
Yesterday, Silver's figures showed Obama going ahead in 16 of 21 polls conducted in the crucial states of Iowa, Colorado, Virginia, Ohio – and even in Florida, where Romney had briefly been in front.
Silver's analysis has been pointing at an Obama victory for some time now and, in frustration, the Republican Tea Party rabble-rousers have taken to insulting him as a homosexual in hopes that by attacking the man they can reverse the message, a sure sign of impending doom for Romney. Right-wing 'shock jock' Rush Limbaugh noted Silver's slender size and high voice and declared him 'Mr New Castrati'.
As for the (basically irrelevant) popular vote across the States, are those "neck-and-neck" headlines actually correct?
The latest poll from Politico/George Washington University poll, which measures national voting intentions rather than the potential division of Electoral Collage votes, has Obama and Romney in a dead heat on 48 per cent each.
Yet despite this finding, Politico suggests that Obama will win. It analysed the final furlong as being all about getting voters to the polls, because studies have shown that the estimated three per cent of voters who remained "undecided" don't bother to vote anyway.
"Obama continues to be perceived as the front runner," says Politico. "Regardless of who they are supporting, 53 per cent of voters say they believe the nation's first African-American president will win a second term. Historically, this question offers a good predictor of who winds up the victor."
That might sound like so much juju, but juju is as powerful a political force as any and the last week of mayhem and tragedy wrought by Superstorm Sandy has left America with the impression that Romney is yesterday's news.
There are all sorts of reasons for this, but two are prominent - the turncoating of New Jersey's splendidly Soprano-esque Governor Chris Christie, a Republican darling plunged into a bromance with Obama amid the flooded ruins of his state, and the unexpected endorsement of the President by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Both left Romney looking irrelevant. All he could do to attract attention was collect canned food for the Red Cross because he is on record as opining that federal aid for all those shivering in the dark of national disaster is "immoral". Today's Republican party was hoisted by its own petard and left swinging in the gale.
Of course, there is no sure victor until the votes are counted on Tuesday night – and possibly, recounted, recounted again and then contested in the courts in a further festival of bad blood.
Yet bookies Paddy Power announced yesterday that they were ready to pay out to punters who have put their money on Obama. It might be a bold and relatively inexpensive PR stunt – the amount of cash bet on politics is still tiny compared with that put on the horses - but it adds to the growing sense that all bets are off for a Romney win.