Fact File: US Presidential Elections


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The Independent Online

Bin Laden is dead. General Motors is alive. That’s the first term summary the Democrats hope American voters will take to the polls, come November. But despite attempts from both campaigns to keep the message simple, the race for the 2012 US Presidential Election, looks to be as complex and closely fought as ever.

A lengthy and bruising Republican primary race brought social issues to the fore and President Obama’s surprise announcement in support of gay marriage kept them there. Despite a lukewarm response from his party during the primaries, Mitt Romney eventually won the Republican nomination. His support is bolstered by what some commentators see as the American right’s unusually intense loathing for the incumbent president.

For Mitt Romney then, the greatest challenge of the campaign has been his likeability problem. Central to this is his wealth and, more specifically, the way he came by it. Even in a country supposedly free of class-envy, an elevator for cars is seen as extravagant.

An Obama campaign attack ad which draws attention to Romney’s work at private equity firm Bain Capital has come under fire from some unlikely corners, but in an era of limitless “super PAC” funding, it’s unlikely to be the last of its kind.

According to the received wisdom, however, the super PACs may be spending in vain. There’s only ever one real election decider: the economy.

The Numbers

270 of 538 – Electoral votes needed to win

$15m (£9.3m) – Amount raised for the Obama campaign by a fundraising dinner hosted by Hollywood actor George Clooney. Source: BBC News

$250m (£163m) – Estimated wealth of presidential candidate Mitt Romney. According to Forbes magazine this would rank him among the richest ever US presidents. Source: Forbes

Further Reading

Mitt Romney, the Unlikable Presidential Candidate, Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, 2012

The Bain of Mitt Romney’s life? Stephen Foley, The Independent, 2012

Eugene Allen: White House butler who worked for eight US presidents, Rupert Cornwell, The Independent, 2012

The Meaning of Mitt, Michael Kranish and Scott Helman, Vanity Fair, 2012


Jan 2010 – The Supreme Court rules that corporate funding of independent political broadcasts in candidate elections cannot be limited

May – June 2011 – Ron Paul, Mike Huckabee, Tim Pawlenty, Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Michele Bachmann and Jon Huntsman all announce their candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination

Dec 2011 – Republican primaries candidate and former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza, Herman Cain announces his withdrawal from the race following repeated allegations of sexual harassment made against him

Feb 2012 – Comedian and actress Rosanne Barr announces her candidacy for the Green Party nomination

April 2012 – The Republican National Committee (RNC) declares Mitt Romney the party's presumptive nominee

June 2012 – Scott Walker, the Republican Governor of Wisconsin survives a union-sponsored recall vote, thereby boosting his party’s presidential campaign

Oct 2012 – Three presidential debates and one vice presidential debate take place over the course of the month

Nov 2012 – The US presidential elections are held on the 6th of the month.