White House race gets closer than ever

Washington, Oct 15: With the race for the White House becoming closer than ever, both Democrats and Republicans are focusing on Tuesday’s second encounter between President Barack Obama and his Republican challenger Mitt Romney.

By all accounts, Romney’s spirited performance or Obama’s lack thereof in the first debate Oct 3 has put the Republican ahead of the incumbent in opinion polls with the RealClearPolitics (RCP) national poll giving him a 47.3 to 46 percent edge.

Yet Obama still leads Romney by 201 to 191 electoral votes in the 538 member Electoral College that chooses the president with 146 votes in 11 swing states too close to call. It takes 270 electoral votes to win the presidency.

Two-and-half weeks ago, RCP, the respected political aggregating site, gave Obama a lead of 265-191 in the Electoral College, in part because Ohio was considered a “likely Obama” state. Now Ohio is again a tossup.

Contrary to popular perception, the American President is not elected directly by the people. Voters in each state only choose a specified number of electors depending on the state’s population in a winner take all election.

Thus the election will be basically decided in 11 toss up states with 146 electoral votes as follows: Colorado (9 electoral votes), Florida (29), Iowa (6), Michigan (16), Nevada (6), New Hampshire (4), North Carolina (15), Ohio (18), Pennsylvania (20), Virginia (13) and Wisconsin (10).

With so much at stake, it’s no wonder that both Obama and Romney skipped campaigning Sunday to focus on preparing for Tuesday’s town hall style debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York.

Obama for one spent much of Sunday sequestered indoors at an expansive resort and golf club in Williamsburg, Virginia to prepare for the debate with senator John Kerry, 2004 Democratic presidential candidate, again playing the role of Romney, according to CNN.

In his one public appearance of the day – a quick trip to a local campaign field office to greet supporters – Obama reported his debate practice “is going great” but declined to elaborate further, according to CNN.

After his universally panned performance in the first debate, Obama will bring more energy and passion to his second showdown with Romney, his aides said Sunday.

David Axelrod, Obama campaign adviser and former White House official, said on “Fox News Sunday” that Obama would be “aggressive in making the case for his view of where we should go as a country.”

Senator Rob Portman, who is playing Obama in Romney’s debate rehearsals, said the Republican team was ready and expecting Obama to take a more aggressive stance Tuesday. “I think President Obama is going to come out swinging,” he said on ABC Sunday.

Meanwhile, after attending church services Sunday morning, Romney devoted several hours to debate practice at a hotel near his suburban Boston home joined by his senior strategy team, including Portman.

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at arun.kumar@ians.in)

IANS