There are now less than two weeks left before the USA and the world find out if there is to be a new tenant at the White House.
This decision will ultimately be made by the voters in battleground states like Virginia, North Carolina and Ohio and here Barack Obama has an edge, although Mitt Romney leads nationally.
This raises once again the possibility of a candidate winning the popular vote but losing the White House by falling short in electoral votes.
In most recent scenarios, Romney is projected as the victim in this odd quirk of the US voting system.
Polls show him winning more overall individual votes, yet Obama retaining a narrow lead in enough states to accumulate more than the required 270 electoral votes needed to be re-elected.
Jonathan Karl, Senior Political Correspondent at ABC News says:
“If Barack Obama can win Ohio, and the polls have shown him in a narrow lead consistently for about two months, then he will very likely win the presidency.”
It is an aspect of the US electoral system which has caused controversy in the past. The candidate who wins the most individual votes in a state, even if by just a single ballot, gets all its electoral votes, although there are exceptions such as Maine and Nebraska.
The Obama campaign points to its “firewall” of three swing states where the President keeps a small but solid and consistent lead: Iowa, Wisconsin and Ohio.
The idea is simple: Obama wins all the states that John Kerry won in 2004 plus Ohio. In that case he is re-elected. But if no candidate makes the 270 vote mark then the outcome is decided by the politicians, as Jonathan Karl explains:
“If there is a tie, if both Romney and Obama get 269 electoral votes, it goes to the Congress. The House gets to elect the President, and the Senate gets to elect the Vice President.”
If Obama were to win the electoral vote majority while losing the popular vote, it would be the reverse of 12 years ago, when the Democrats saw Al Gore win over 500,000 more individual votes than George W. Bush, but the Republican won the election by one electoral vote.