This blog is about the American election, but before I get started here’s a reflection on the media coverage of Frankenstorm Sandy.
Somehow I must have missed the wall to wall coverage as the storm hit Haiti before moving north to the USA. I don’t remember the TV correspondent’s previews of the disaster about to hit this desperately poor country days in advance. I don’t remember the sight of reporters clinging on to trees as they reported from Port-au-Prince and I don’t remember interviews with Haitians in the aftermath of the storm.
I appreciate millions more people were affected as the storm raked America’s East Coast but does coverage of these disasters have to be so brazenly dictated by the abundance of news crews in New York and their sparcity in Port-au-Prince?
One blessing of Storm Sandy was a temporary lull in the campaign for the US Presidency. It is now back in full swing ahead of Tuesday’s poll as President Obama and challenger Mitt Romney spend the last of the 2bn dollars that they’ve raised for their campaigns.
Does it all matter for business in the North West of little ol’ England? The answer has to be yes because of the huge American economy. Whoever is pulling the economic strings in Washington will have some effect on our efforts to pull out of recession. America’s domination of the world is diminishing in the face of China, India and Brazil but it is still the daddy.
It also matters because American foreign policy decisions could have a profound effect on all our futures. I only need to refer to a possible clash between Iran and Israel to make that point.
The economy is crucial and that should worry Obama in these closing days of the campaign. Jimmy Carter in 1980 and George Bush Snr in 1992 became one term presidents during periods of economic stress. According to recent research 28% of American workers are worried they might lose their job. 48% of homeowners believe their home is worth less than the mortgage.
So has all the hope and zeal that surrounded the election of America’s first black President four years ago vanished? Will Obama suffer the fate of other western leaders who have lost office since the recession began like Berlusconi in Italy and Sarkozy in France?
Possibly not because Mitt Romney has not sealed the deal with many floating voters. His Mormon faith, his opposition to the bail out of the US car industry and the fact that many Republicans are dissatisfied with him as their candidate all mean that victory may elude him.
The main question is what is the right direction for America? President Obama has staked all on his massive reform of America’s health care system and a $768bn package of tax cuts and investment in the economy. Romney would scrap “Obamacare” as he scathingly refers to it and reduce Federal spending.
Romney faces an uphill task because even if more people vote for him in total across America, you have to win 270 votes in the Electoral College to win. Al Gore got most votes in 2000 but George Bush won in the College. The College is made up of state representatives who formally cast their votes in December reflecting the way people voted in their state. California has 33 votes, sparsely populated Montana just 3.
So although the national polls are showing Obama and Romney dead level, the election will be won and lost in a few key states.
Without a further big push by Romney it looks as if the President will get to 271 votes from 21 states, crucially including Ohio. Romney would win 206 votes from 23 states if he takes the key state of North Carolina. To win Romney would have to take three or four of the swing states of Colorado, Florida, Nevada, New Hampshire and Virginia. It’s a big ask.
It’s going to be close. Let’s hope it doesn’t all hang on a chad.