Election 2012 may quickly be turning into one of the tightest elections in recent American history. With 16 days until the general election on November 6, The Obama-Romney race is a dead heat, and with very little wiggle room for either candidate.
Swing state polls, demographic polls, and national polls each show the candidates more or less tied. Battle ground states — which are vital to push one candidate ahead in the all important Electoral College — are as much of a toss-up as ever, with many analysts now completely uncertain about where each of the 10 or so biggest swing states will swing.
The big poll on Sunday came from NBC news and the Wall Street Journal. Chuck Todd unveiled the new NBC/WSJ national poll on Meet the Press on Sunday, and the numbers show a dead heat in the race for the White House: 47-47 among likely voters.
Chuck Todd told David Gregory: "Not all tied races are equal. The president sitting at 47, if this were the Sunday before Election Day, there would be a lot of concerns in Chicago. They want to be at 48 or 49. Sitting at 47 is a good number for a challenger, but not a good number for an incumbent. ... The gender gap: Among men, Romney - a 10-point lead. ... Women: ... President, an 8-point lead here. This is actually his smallest lead among women that we've had all year long. ... In the Midwest, Romney has a narrow lead, but way inside the margin of error. And among all the collective battleground states, a little bit of a lead for Mitt Romney. ... Colorado ... might be the closest battleground state in the country. But it's the Midwest - that is the ticket to 270 electoral votes."
The Midwest, then, has just become the battleground of the battleground states.
The Wall Street Journal's Neil King Jr., added in his article "Romney Surges to Tie Obama in National Poll," that "A late surge in support for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has put him in a dead heat with President Barack Obama with just over two weeks to go before the election, according to a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll released Sunday. Among likely voters, the candidates are now tied, 47% to 47%, in a race that appears on track to be one of the closest in U.S. history. ... The poll found Mr. Romney with a wide lead among men, 53% to 43%, while Mr. Obama continues to maintain an advantage among women, 51% to 43%. Mr. Romney's edge among men has grown over the past month, while Mr. Obama's lead among women has slightly diminished."
Obama top political adviser David Axelrod sought to down-play the new poll, telling David Gregory on Meet the Press that "Every time I've visited with you, I've predicted that this would be a close race. But we feel good about where we are. We feel we're even or ahead in these battleground states. If you look at the early voting that's going on around the country, it's very robust and it's very favorable to us. And we think that's a better indicator than these public polls, which are frankly all over the map."
The two candidates will be looking to give themselves some added momentum by absolutely #KillingIt in the final presidential debate on Monday, a debate that will focus exclusively on foreign policy. In order to “win” that debate, each candidate will need to touch on the issues that are most important in the mind of the American voter.
What are those issues? The Pew Research Center, in recent polling (October 4-7), outlined some of these issues, finding that 54% of Americans continue to say it is more important to have stable governments in the Middle East, even if there is less democracy in the region. Fifty-six percent say it is more important to take a "firm stand" against Iran's nuclear program, while 35% say it is more important to avoid conflict. Sixty-three percent say they think the U.S. should be less involved with changes of leadership in the Middle East, compared with 23% who say the U.S. should be more involved. In a separate survey from October 12-14, 38% disapprove of the Obama administration's handling of the terrorist attack in Benghazi, while 35% approve. The survey found large partisan differences regarding details of the Libya situation. For example, 41% of Republicans say they heard a lot about incorrect statements by the administration about protests outside the embassy when the attacks occurred, compared with 17% of Democrats and 28% of Independents. Of those who haven't made up their minds at this point, the foreign policy answers by the candidates may help them decide.