Close presidential race to end with divided Congress, nation

President Barack Obama (left) speaks at campaign event onJuly 19, 2012 in Jacksonville, Florida, a battleground state that could win him a second term. On the right, Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney addresses the Family Research Council's Values Voter Summit in Washington on October 8, 2011. Romney will make a last-minute play for Pennsylvania November 4, 2012 as he and President Barack Obama criss-cross America in a final push for votes (MANDEL NGAN/AFP and NICHOLAS KAMM/FILES/AFP/GETTY).

 

With election day just two days away, Obama has a slight lead in electoral votes over his opponent Mitt Romney while Democrats are expected  to hold the Senate and Republicans the House. Factors from the candidates’ promises and records to the economy, Hurricane Sandy and immigration will all determine who wins the 2012 presidential race.

For the past week, Obama has devoted time to addressing the devastation from Huricane Sandy, by which New York and New Jersey were most severely hit. According to a Washington Post-ABC poll, nearly half of all Americans said his response to Sandy would affect how they vote, and the response is positive. Obama’s shift in focus from the elections to relief-aid even garnered acclaim from Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who had previously denounced the Obama administration.

Despite that, the unemployment rate may strip Obama of votes, especially from undecided voters. The Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics reported on Friday that while 171,000 jobs were added, the unemployment rate climbed up from 7.8 percent in September to 7.9 percent for October.

As the candidates sprint towards the end of the race, much depends on the nine battleground states: Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin. Winning one or another could mean a victory for Obama, while Romney would need more electoral votes, reports the New York Times.

Assuming Pennsylvania and Minnesota continue to lean toward Obama, the president would need only 27 of the 89 remaining electoral votes to win, while Romney would need 64. Obama could win a second term solely by winning Florida; but if Romney wins Florida, all eyes will turn to Ohio and its 18 electoral votes. Even there, though, Obama is counting on his success with the auto-industry bailout.

Despite Hurricane Sandy, the past week of campaigning has seen a downpour of controversial advertisements. ABC reports of “Voter Fraud is a Felony” billboard ads in Ohio and Wisconsin that sparked outcry of voter intimidation. That echoed in Pennsylvania, where Spanish-language billboard ads fell under criticism for instructing voters to show ID at the polls despite the state’s anti-voter ID ruling.

Other problems yet are popping up in the battleground state of Iowa, where voters have reported receiving absentee ballots without having requested them. The Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation is looking into potential ballot fraud.

Even with high early voting turnouts, overall turnout remains a concern. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, voter turnout has been increasing over the past four presidential contests.  But there is question as to whether early voting will have a substantial effect on the total number of votes. In fact, Martha Kropf, a political science professor at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, wrote that early voting will likely not contribute to the final vote count.

Democrats, however, are poised to challenge that notion — and it’s why President Obama is counting on Puerto Rican support, mainly in Miami, to counter the Cuban-American precincts, which tend to lean Republican. Puerto Ricans living in the United States can vote for the presidential elections, and with more than 1.5 million Latinos registered to vote in Florida, Obama is seeking to persuade Latinos to vote Democrat. An estimated 592,000 Florida Latinos are registered Democrats, while 463,000 are Republicans.

Even if Obama wins on Tuesday, he will continue to face a divided Congress and nation. Even before he enters a potential second term, the Bush-era tax cuts will expire on December 31, likely sparking backlash. The Obama administration has said it would veto proposals that extend Bush-era tax cuts — which the Congressional Budget Office reports will cost nearly $1 trillion over the next decade — for salaries more than $250,000.

“I’ve already signed a trillion dollars’ worth of spending cuts,” said Obama at a campaign event on Friday in Hilliard, Ohio. “I intend to do more, but if we’re serious about the deficit, we also have to ask the wealthiest Americans to go back to the rates that they paid when Bill Clinton was in office.”

On the other hand, if Romney were elected, he would have to wrestle through tea party Republicans and face upset Democrats, who will likely retain power in the Senate.

His biggest challenge? Likely the economy and our mounting debt, all of which affect health care policy, jobs and — let’s not bury it under the rug  — climate change. The former governor will inherit a mound of challenges, starting with un-sandwiching himself between increasingly polarized parties under post-election tension.

 

 

By Azra Halilovic, Hoy editorial intern