With Obama, Romney in virtual tie, Congress likely to see status quo

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On the eve of a deeply polarising campaign, President Barack Obama enjoys a slim edge over Republican challenger Mitt Romney in the contest for electoral majority, as candidates remain locked a virtual tie for the popular vote.
Two days from November 6 polls, political analyses indicate that the Capitol Hill was likely to see continuation in status quo with Democrats controlling the Senate and Republicans taking the House. So close has been the race that the two candidates still face a stubborn landscape of competitive states that are producing equal shares of hope and fear amid conflicting signals about the outcome. Analysts say political polarisation witnessed in the campaign has left little room in either party for middle-of-the-road lawmakers to win the vote and make it to the two legislative chambers. Democrats are expected to gain seats in the 435-member House, representing 50 US states. But they are not expected to get the 25 needed to recapture the majority lost in the Republican sweep of 2010, an analytical report in the Washington Post suggested.
In the Senate, Democrats hold a 53-47 majority, including two independents that caucus with them. The US electoral collage comprises 538 members, including 435 Representatives of the House, 100 Senators, and three electors from the District of Columbia and a party must win 270 votes to claim victory. “Although 10 or more races were considered too close to call through much of the fall, Democrats are now in a position to maintain their majority, although perhaps barely,” the analysis concludes. The assessment is based on interviews with strategists in the two parties and both presidential campaigns, as well as state and local officials and independent analysts. It includes an analysis of polls on individual states and races that have poured forth over the final weeks before the election.
The latest Washington Post-ABC News national poll shows a dead heat this weekend, with Obama and Romney both at 48 percent among likely voters. The survey has barely fluctuated. Obama spent part of this past week in his official capacity as commander in chief as Hurricane Sandy devastated the Atlantic Coast, pummelling New Jersey and New York the hardest. Almost half of all Americans said Obama’s hurricane response would be a factor in their vote, according to the latest Post-ABC tracking poll. An earlier survey found that 79 percent rated his handling of the situation excellent or good. Another wild card is whether the latest jobs report will have a demonstrable effect on an electorate deeply polarised and with few undecided voters left. The report, released Friday, showed that 171,000 jobs were added while the unemployment rate ticked up to 7.9 percent. The nine states that continue to define the presidential battleground include Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin. Obama began the general-election race with a base of 18 states plus the District, totalling 237 electoral votes. Romney began with a base of 23 states, totalling 191 electoral votes. North Carolina is tipping toward Romney and Nevada toward Obama, putting the president at 243 and Romney at 206. On the other hand, Romney is making a late play in Pennsylvania and Minnesota and will campaign in the Keystone State on Sunday. Both states continue to lean toward the president, but Obama’s campaign has decided to send former president Bill Clinton to Pennsylvania on Sunday for extra measure. In the case these states continue to stay in Obama’s column, the president would need only 27 of the remaining 89 electoral votes to win. Romney would need 64 of the 89, which explains why Obama still has an easier — but by no means certain — path to an Electoral College majority. For example, he could win a second term simply by winning Florida, which remains competitive.
The fiercely close race is throwing up a series of possible outcome scenarios. If the Sunshine State goes for Romney, then much will depend on Ohio, which is why it is the focus of so much campaign activity in the final days. Its 18 electoral votes represent the bulwark of Obama’s Midwestern line of defence against Romney. In another scenario, if Obama were to carry Ohio — and he continues to hold a narrow lead in public polls there — he could win an electoral majority by adding Virginia (13 electoral votes) or Wisconsin (10) or Colorado (nine), or by winning Iowa (six) and New Hampshire (four). And if Romney does not win Ohio, his path to victory would have to include Colorado, Florida, Virginia, Wisconsin and either Iowa or New Hampshire. But if he does capture the Buckeye State, he could become president by taking Florida and Virginia and then just one other contested state