US Election Analysis: Polls on a knife edge – but Obama in front as zero hour approaches

The only numbers that really matter are from the campaign’s own polls in the swing states

Make no mistake, the polls are close and never forget that night in New Hampshire in early 2008 when every indicator told us Barack Obama would bulldoze Hillary Clinton in the primary contest there. And then she won, making pundits and reporters cringe. Yet it is the sheer consistency of swing-state polling that gives Mr Obama an edge, though often very slim, over Mitt Romney, that suggests a surprise outcome would be just that, a surprise. Of 21 swing-state polls last weekend, one had Romney ahead, one had them tied. Obama was ahead in 19.

According to Andrew Kohut, of the Pew Research organisation, as many as 11 per cent of likely voters indicate they may not finally decide until they are in the polling booths. Who knows what psychic winds may suddenly capture a bulk of them. Pure fatigue with the economy. Sudden desire for anything new – ie, Mitt? Could something happen in the last hours and minutes of the campaign to trigger a final rush to the Republican? That is a lot of voters still in play, if that number is right.

While his surprisingly strong performance in the first debate in Denver finally gave Mr Romney some impetus in the final phase of the campaign, there is an argument that he may have peaked just too soon. Certainly, some Republican insiders are already surmising that the momentum was pinched, particularly by super-storm Sandy and Mr Obama's much-praised response to it.

We see the public polling only. The only numbers that really matter are from the campaigns' own polls in the various swing states; they are far more sophisticated and scientific. The Romney campaign continues to assert that it will win and some even say win big. Are they seeing something that we and Team Obama are not?

One unknown quantity: how much better this year is the Republican ground-game operation? Always we assume that the Democrats have the art of getting the core supporters out to the polls down to a fine science and the Republicans do not. But that may turn out to be a myth and the GOP may yet surprise us. An enthusiasm deficit among Democrats, especially among minorities, could be fatal for the President.

Recall that, as per Mr Kohut, a large slice of voters is still ready to switch allegiances even at the last moment. What, if by the time you are reading this, something shocking has happened to rock the Obama ship? These are generally called October Surprises – events that completely change the landscape of presidential race – and, as the name implies, they have usually happened by now, especially if they are forged by the opposing campaign.

Life and Style
A teenager boy wakes up.
life
Life and Style
It is believed that historically rising rates of alcohol consumption have contributed to the increase
food + drink
Voices
The erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey has already been blamed for a rise in the number of callouts to the fire brigade for people trapped in handcuffs
voicesJustine Elyot: Since Fifty Shades there's no need to be secretive about it — everyone's at it
Arts and Entertainment
Critics say Kipling showed loathing for India's primitive villagers in The Jungle Book
filmChristopher Walken, Bill Murray, Scarlett Johanssen Idris Elba, Andy Serkis, Benedict Cumberbatch, Cate Blanchett and Christian Bale
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Playing to win: for Tanith Carey, pictured with Lily, right, and Clio, even simple games had to have an educational purpose
lifeTanith Carey explains what made her take her foot off the gas
Arts and Entertainment
The White Sails Hospital and Spa is to be built in the new Tunisia Economic City.
architectureRussian billionaire designs boat-shaped hospital for new Dubai-style Tunisia Economic City
Arts and Entertainment
You could be in the Glastonbury crowd next summer if you follow our tips for bagging tickets this week
music
Life and Style
tech
Extras
indybest
Life and Style
food + drink
News
i100
News
i100
Life and Style
Bearing up: Sebastian Flyte with his teddy Aloysius in Brideshead Revisited
lifePhilippa Perry explains why a third of students take a bear to uni
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Alan Sugar appearing in a shot from Apprentice which was used in a Cassette Boy mashup
artsA judge will rule if pieces are funny enough to be classed as parodies
Arts and Entertainment
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Java Developer - web services, XML and API

£330 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Lond...

Maths Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Reading: Maths Teacher required to teach Furthe...

Primary teachers required for schools in Norwich

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Primary teachers requ...

Trainee Helpdesk Analyst / 1st Line Application Support Analyst

£18000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

Day In a Page

Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?
Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

Education, education, education

TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

So why don’t we do it and save some lives?
This man just ran a marathon in under 2 hours 3 minutes. Is a 2-hour race in sight?

Is a sub-2-hour race now within sight?

Dennis Kimetto breaks marathon record
We shall not be moved, say Stratford's single parents fighting eviction

Inside the E15 'occupation'

We shall not be moved, say Stratford single parents
Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Talks between all touched by the crisis in Syria and Iraq can achieve as much as the Tornadoes, says Patrick Cockburn
Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

The Tory MP speaks for the first time about the devastating effect of his father's bankruptcy
Witches: A history of misogyny

Witches: A history of misogyny

The sexist abuse that haunts modern life is nothing new: women have been 'trolled' in art for 500 years
Shona Rhimes interview: Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Writer and producer of shows like Grey's Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes now has her own evening of primetime TV – but she’s taking it in her stride
'Before They Pass Away': Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Jimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style