Obama holds slight edge as America goes to the polls
By Benjamin Fox
The US Presidential election hangs on a knife-edge as America goes to the polls on Tuesday (6 November) but pundits are giving Obama a slight edge in most of the swing states that will decide the election.
Polling stations opened at 7am in Pinellas county, in St. Petersburg, Florida. Rain puddles and palm trees line the streets with the polling stations doing a steady stream of business as voters brave the heavy rain. Although most say that Florida is too close to call and could go either way, most voters prepared to talk said Obama will narrowly hold on to the presidency.
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Indeed, the Democrats have grown increasingly confident in the final days leading up to polling day, with a series of polls giving President Obama a narrow lead in most of the key swing states. The Republicans, meanwhile, continue to claim that the election remains in play, citing surveys by the Rasmussen polling group which have consistently given Romney a slight edge in national polls.
The local campaign Romney Victory office is also doing a brisk trade as volunteer canvassers rush in and out with Romney/Ryan garden posters and 'Get out the vote' sheets. There is a sense of desperation among some canvassers who say they are "scared for their country". One lady denounces the iniquity of Obama's controversial health care reforms. "Obama-care forcing everybody to be equal is just wrong", she tells me, adding proudly that no Republican Congressmen backed the bill.
After a race that has seen the two camps spend over $700 million on television advertising alone in the swing states, election day brings with it a sense of relief and closure.
That said, 34 million Americans had already cast either early or absentee ballots before today, almost 30% of the likely turnout projected to be between 120-130 million. 48% of voters in Pinellas county have chosen to vote early in advance of polling day, with 4.5 million of Florida's 19 million population registered to vote early. With 38% of early votes having already been counted in the Sunshine state, Obama holds a slight lead of 43% to 39% over Romney.
Republican challenger Mitt Romney has fought gamely after being widely written off during the early stages of the campaign and looks to have energised a Republican party initially sceptical of his record as governor of liberal Massachusetts.
Robert Winston, of conservative polling firm the Winston group, told this website that Romney has made moves to detoxify the Republican brand tarnished by the Bush administration. "People need to see that you are ready to govern", he says, adding that selecting Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan as his running-mate had shown that Romney was prepared to put together an ideologically coherent policy alternative. Winston states that the US economy will be the deciding factor in the election and that, by a margin of 5-10%, American's blame the Bush administration more than Obama for the country's economic woes.
As at the previous three elections, media eyes will focus on the likes of Ohio, Florida and Virginia. Polls on the American east coast close at 7pm local time (1am Brussels), with Ohio and Virginia expected to be the first swing states to be called between 7pm and 8pm