Despite billions spent in campaigning (much like Coke vs. Pepsi) there is no indication of a fundamental change in the election prospects. Obama remains likely to win re-election through the magic of the electoral college, which will give him a clear victory if he carries Ohio and Pennsylvania. Indeed Nate Silver’s “538” poll of polls gives Romney only a 14% chance of winning in the electoral college, and suggests Obama could exceed 300 electoral votes (only 270 being needed to win). The popular vote, however, remains too close to call.
So there are two or three nightmare scenarios in the offing. One is that Obama wins the electoral college vote, but loses the popular vote — and the Republicans in Congress then use the popular vote outcome to legitimize blocking every single legislative and appointment action that Obama attempts.
A second nightmare is if the vote is so close in some key swing state — Florida, Ohio, Virginia — that a recount is demanded, or annoucement of results has to await counting absentee ballots. Either way, we won’t know who won for a week or more.
Finally, while it now seems certain that the Democrats will hang on to their majority in the Senate, there could be a swing right in the House that makes it even more impossible for Congress to function.
Any of these outcomes would be bad for the nation, perpetuating policy gridlock at a time when bold actions are needed to cope with debt, aging baby boomers, and defense.
I am hoping that Obama clearly wins a popular majority as well as an electoral college victory, and that democrats gain in both the Senate and House. I say this not because I think Democratic policies are always best (though in this case I think they are better than Romney’s ‘we don’t need FEMA’ attitude). Rather, I think that is the best outcome for our government recovering the will and capacity to move the US forward.