Although it is known that the president of the United States is elected by the electoral college — as opposed to the actual majority vote in the democratic general election — and then Sen. Barack Obama won both by a considerable margin in the 2008 presidential election, there are indicators that the coming 2012 political contest on November 6 just might be as close as the 2004 election, or even the extremely close 2000 election.
A USA Today poll of 12 swing states indicate that the 2012 election could be another edge-of-your-seat fingernail-biter. In a head-to-head match-up, Obama leads presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney 47 percent to 45 percent. That’s seven points closer for Romney than was registered in a similar swing states poll in late March.
Swing states are very important in the general elections. Mostly comprised of independents and moderate Democrats or moderate Republicans, these states are often looked at by pollsters as too close to call or leaners toward a certain party but with leeway to literally swing to favor the opposing party in an election if political winds so dictate.
The presidential elections of 2004 and 2000 were decided by one state in each contest: Ohio in the former, Florida in the latter. Both were swing states during those elections. They’re considered swing states in the upcoming election as well.
In 2004, the final decision came down to the state of Ohio. Incumbent President George W. Bush won the general election by over three million votes, but it was Ohio’s 20 electoral votes that ensured the Bush administration another four years in office. Bush received nearly 120,000 more votes than Sen. John Kerry (out of over 5.5 million cast), giving him 286 electoral votes in all. If Sen. Kerry had received the majority of votes, Ohio’s 20 electoral college votes would have placed his total at 271 and he would have defeated Bush by a mere five electoral votes.
In 2000, the margin of victory was even closer. In fact, Gov. George W. Bush lost the general election to then Vice President Al Gore by just over half a million votes, but a discrepancy in the vote counting in the major swing state of Florida saw both sides filing lawsuits for recounts. After a Supreme Court decision halted further legal activity, the final count fell in favor of Bush. Winning Florida by the slim margin of 437 votes, Bush also took the electoral votes (25) and won the election 271 to 266 in the electoral college.
The USA Today poll also indicated that what was once looked at as a definite GOP advantage has now been replaced by a Democratic advantage — enthusiasm. Back in December, the Republican Party had a 14-point advantage. Now, after most of the Republican primary season has ended and a presumptive nominee in Romney has been selected, the poll revealed that Democratic voters now have an 11-point advantage.
Still, regardless of which party might have the most enthusiastic support for their chosen candidate (something that could alter considerably once Romney announces a running mate), the general election itself seems headed toward another dead-heat finish.
As if to indicate the tightening of the presidential race, the tracking of polls by Real Clear Politics has revealed that since mid-April’s National Journal poll, where Obama led by eight percentage points over Romney, no poll has shown one candidate over the other by more than three points. Two of the polls indicated a tie. None was outside the margin of error.