US race in sticky phase with free sweets and $1bn for ads
Of President Barack Obama’s many campaign promises, free Halloween chocolate from the White House for voters from the swing states might just be the most significant.
“It is an election year, so candy for everybody,” Mr Obama pledged during an interview with late-night TV host Jay Leno.
“If anybody comes from Ohio to the White House they’ll get a Hershey bar about this big,” he added, arms outstretched.
It was a joke, of course, yet with a week and a half until the 6 November polling day, it highlighted how Mr Obama’s campaign for a second term will be won or lost in a handful of battleground states, Ohio included.
Along with Florida, Virginia and lesser others, including North Carolina, Iowa, Colorado and Nevada, it carries enough votes in the Electoral College, which assigns each state a numerical value depending on its size, to tip the election for the incumbent or his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney.
And it is in those states that the candidates are pouring $1 billion in TV advertisements and making almost daily appearances in a last frantic scramble to secure undecided voters in a race declared by the latest poll yesterday to be a virtual dead heat.
In Ohio, which will award its winner 18 of the 270 college votes needed to secure the keys to the White House, Mr Obama holds a 2.1 per cent advantage, according to Real Clear Politics, well below half that of his margin over John McCain in 2008.
But indications from three weeks of early voting appear to favour Mr Obama, who also has history on his side. No Republican has ever won the national election without winning Ohio.
In Florida, however, the largest prize among the swing states with 29 college votes, Mr Romney has turned around a deficit of four points in recent weeks and now holds a 1.8 per cent lead, says RCP.
It has prompted furious last-minute activity from the president, who made his 14th campaign visit since January to the state yesterday, where he delivered doughnuts to firefighters in Tampa, and a blitz of TV ads, almost $5 million worth in a week.
Even so, analysts say Mr Obama can still win the election without taking Florida. Mr Romney’s path to the White House, meanwhile, is almost impossible to cross without Florida’s college votes. “The Romney campaign is increasingly confident about Florida and the Obama campaign concedes things are trending his way,” CNN’s John King said after Monday’s final presidential debate in Boca Raton.
“The Democrats are starting to think they might have to concede Florida. We’re already seeing evidence that North Carolina is moving Romney’s way. If these two things happen, you get [electoral college] parity, 237-235. You then have seven leftover toss-up states and that would become the big calculation.
“If Florida keeps trending Romney’s way and he can hold that, if North Carolina is as solid as they think, you have quite the fight. They have to calculate is it worth spending so much just to try to hold the race close or should we cut that money maybe in half and spend it in Ohio, Nevada, Colorado?”
Both the Republicans and Democratic camps launched new TV ads to be aired in the battleground states this week, Mr Romney attacked Mr Obama over unemployment and tax cuts and was accused in turn of backing the policies that caused the economic meltdown.
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