The U.S. presidential marathon has moved into its final lap with conflicting polls offering supporters of either candidate comfort, while assuring a close popular vote outcome. Republican Mitt Romney staggered through a seemingly endless quest for his party‚Äö√Ñ√¥s nomination which began in 2011, then Phase 2 allowed President Obama‚Äö√Ñ√¥s TV campaign to define him as a heartless capitalist during the summer while Romney scrambled to raise campaign funds.
The third chapter, the two political party conventions ending in early September, was a win for Obama. Democrats seemed united and strategic, and a stirring speech by former President Bill Clinton set the table for Obama to fire up his grassroots troops. The Republicans seemed quaint and out of date, and actor Clint Eastwood‚Äö√Ñ√¥s weird monologue on behalf of the Republican candidate upstaged Romney.
The final phase began with a TV debate watched by 70 million in which Romney came on like a sleek, high performance automobile while Obama seemed to be coasting to avoid running out of fuel. It was disheartening for Obama supporters and and inflated Romney‚Äö√Ñ√¥s polling numbers (although a new Gallup poll shows that 71% of Republicans believe the polls are manipulated by the! liberal! media).
Vice President Joe Biden won his debate against Congressman Paul Ryan, but no voter admits to being influenced by these secondary candidates. The presidential candidates will meet a total of three times, but historically only the first debate has moved the numbers.
In the polls tracking electoral college delegate apportionment, that anti-Democratic device that gives rural voters disproportionate strength in choosing the next president, Obama remains ahead, although slipping. The race has evolved from a referendum , in which voters were deciding whether President Obama deserved another term, into a choice election, where voters see both candidates‚Äö√Ñ√¥ strengths and weaknesses and select a favorite by election day, Nov. 6.
Twitterati will be interested in this tool from the Washington Post: @mentionmachine, designed to track the social media's impact on the 2012 presidential candidates. Not surprisingly, the president leads the others each day ‚Äö√Ñ√¨ but as a rough gauge of interest it is fun to watch the numbers bump up and down.
Blogger Bill Hamilton is executive vice president of Fenton, a Washington, D.C., strategic communications company allied with túatú social media & pr.