Saturday Sep 22, 201201:45 PM GMT
Tide shifts to Obama in most competitive states
Sat Sep 22, 2012 1:43PM
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In a presidential race seemingly frozen in place for months, the advantage has shifted toward President Barack Obama after a series of miscues by Mitt Romney, punctuated by the Republican challenger's comments about people who pay no income tax.


Despite a continuing gray economic sky and unrest in the Mideast, the president has edged ahead of Romney in some of the most competitive states, including Iowa and Virginia, and forced Romney to redouble efforts in Florida and Ohio, without which he has little chance of becoming president.


With about six weeks left before Election Day and early voting under way in some states, Romney faces a problematic map, a ticking clock and a campaign demeanor that has failed to click with many voters.


Obama's momentum did not come overnight. It built over several weeks in which Romney hit some potholes while the president made few errors and benefited from previously unseen advantages in advertising strategy and fundraising.


Weeks of campaigning remain, and the three debates, starting Oct. 3, are the kind of events that could change the momentum again. But the race has bent toward Obama at a pivotal moment, according to public and internal campaign polls as well as interviews with leading Democratic and Republican strategists in the most closely contested states.


"Months of paid media about Romney not caring about people, being out of touch ... it came into complete focus with Romney making the case against himself," Democratic strategist Tad Devine, a top aide to past Democratic nominees Al Gore and John Kerry, said about a video that surfaced last week of Romney speaking at a private fundraiser in May.


The polls show trouble rising for Romney almost everywhere he looks. He has fallen dangerously behind in Virginia and Ohio, and his ability to close in on Obama in Iowa and Wisconsin is now in doubt.


Most of the polls were conducted before there was widespread publicity of the video secretly recorded in May. In it, Romney tells donors that the roughly 47 percent of Americans who do not pay income tax will support Obama and "are dependent upon government" and "believe that they are victims."


The revelation overshadowed Romney's promise to sharpen his campaign approach and offer more specific proposals to improve the economy. Democrats said the video played into their portrait of Romney as a wealthy politician out of touch with ordinary people.


Romney may not have helped himself later in the week when he released his 2011 tax return. It showed that he and his wife paid $1.94 million in federal taxes on income of $13.7 million. Their effective tax rate was 14.1 percent, lower than many families pay, because most of the couple's earnings come from investments.


An American president is not elected directly by the people but by a group of political elite known as the Electoral College.


The Electoral College system makes it possible for a candidate to win the presidency without winning the popular vote. There have been four cases where a candidate won the national popular vote only to see someone else walk into the White House.


This happened last in 2000, when Al Gore got half a million more popular votes than George Bush, but lost the Electoral College by 266 to 271.


The Republican and Democratic Parties dominate electoral politics. Almost every federal or state-level elected official in the United States is either a Republican or Democrat. These two major parties have made it extremely difficult for a third party or independent candidates to have a spot on the general election ballot. Whereas major party candidates automatically appear on the ballot, third parties must petition state election officials to be listed.


Another drawback is that in many states, the result is a foregone conclusion and there is thus little incentive for individuals to vote.


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