The November presidential election was shaping up to be a yawner six weeks ago. President Barack Obama would rake in more than 300 electoral votes – easily surpassing the 270 needed to win, according to most projections.
Then, came Denver. In the first presidential debate, Democrat Obama didn’t look like he really wanted the job for four more years, and Republican nominee Mitt Romney looked – well – presidential. The terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, followed with the death of four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador.
Suddenly, the electoral map that decides the presidency – not the popular vote – started to look a lot more competitive.
Polls showed Romney taking the lead in Florida, North Carolina, Virginia and New Hampshire, four states that Obama took in 2008 when American voters had more hope of change.
Last week, however, as Hurricane Sandy swept ashore, Obama quit the campaign trail to return to the White House and oversee recovery efforts. Meanwhile, Romney converted his campaign rallies to relief efforts. And polling indicated another change.
While Romney still led in Florida, North Carolina and Virginia – three states he needs to carry to win the presidency – his leads were shrinking.
The race remains razor close, meaning, just as in 2004, the election again may come down to Ohio. That year, President George W. Bush took the state and narrowly won re-election, a victory not conceded until the next day.
No Republican ever has been elected president without winning Ohio, a fact not lost on Romney.
As his campaign schedule over the last two weeks suggests, the state is absolutely vital to the former Massachusetts governor, barring an upset win elsewhere – Pennsylvania or Michigan.
Even without Ohio, where Obama is leading narrowly according to most recent polls, the Democratic incumbent has an electoral path to victory. But it will be tough, having to Colorado, Iowa, New Hampshire and Wisconsin, home to the GOP’s vice presidential nominee, U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan.
And some polls show Romney narrowly leading in Colorado.
It will be the wee hours of Wednesday morning before the winner is known, possibly even midday.
Of course, it could be worse.
In 2000, the winner wasn’t know until mid-December.