Obama v Romney - The Prize

25/05/2012 09:09 BST | Updated 24/07/2012 10:12 BST

Primaries & Caucuses

Although the Democrats and the Republicans have yet to hold their late summer conventions, the 2012 race for the presidency is clearly in full gear.

We are now coming to the end of a brutalizing Republican Primary-Caucus season - beginning back in the freezing corn fields of Iowa.

Here is where we stand.

According to Real Clear Politics, the presumptive candidate Mitt Romney currently has 989 delegates - 1,144 are needed to secure the Republican nomination at their convention in Tampa Bay. He will garner those delegates and put it away by no later than June 5.

The General Election

Both presumptive candidates President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are already flooding the key battle ground states with ads and stumping in all the critical swing states.

Currently the RCP poll - which measures the likely popular vote - has Obama with 45.5 and Romney with 43.6 - a statistical dead heat.

This difference is within the margin of error.

However, the Electoral College map - which is the one that counts and determines the ultimate outcome of the US Presidential Elections - tells a different story.

Currently Obama has 227 and Romney 170 - 141 electoral votes are in the toss up column.

Despite the fact that every registered voter is entitled to one vote in the presidential election, the US president is not selected by the outcome of the popular vote.

The Electoral College system was put in place to balance the interests of small states against larger more populous states in the outcome of the Presidential Election.

The results of the popular vote in each state are translated into the number of Electoral College votes for each state.

The Presidency is in a sense the prize awarded to the candidate who wins at least 270 Electoral College votes.

It is possible that a candidate could win the popular vote and still lose the Presidential Election.

In fact, this very thing happened as recently as the 2000 Presidential Election - remember Florida? - when George W. Bush was elected president because he won 271 Electoral College votes despite the fact that Al Gore won the popular vote with 48.4% to Bush's 47.9%.

RPC has 11 toss-up states.

It is very unusual for the electoral map to be so narrowed at this point in a presidential campaign.

Arizona - Romney +4.0

Colorado - tied

Florida - Obama +0.5

Iowa - Obama +4.0

Michigan - Obama +5.3

Missouri - Romney +3

New Hampshire - Obama +6.4

North Carolina - Romney +2.5

Ohio - Obama +4.9

Virginia - Obama +2.5

Wisconsin - Obama +2.8

Money! Money! Money! The Super PACs

This is the first presidential campaign after the Supreme Court case - "Citizens United" - opened the financial flood gates allowing unlimited cash to flow into the presidential election process.

This ruling in this case allows unlimited and undisclosed cash contributions from super wealthy individuals by way of Super PACs to become a decisive and influential factor in US presidential politics.

The jury is still out as to the ultimate affect this tsunami of cash will have on the outcome of this race.

Both parties and presidential candidates are in a fight to the finish for these "Mega Bucks".

A Nation Divided

It is clear that both the Republicans and the Democrats, for their own reasons, seem a little disappointed in their presumptive choices.

As a result this election will turn on:

- The ability of the parties to excite their voters and get them out to the polls (GOTV)

- The ability of the campaigns to raise lots and lots of money

- The ability of the candidates to move successfully to the center and win the hearts and minds of the independent voter without totally alienating their base voters

- Romney's choice of a vice presidential running mate - which could affect the enthusiasm factor for the Republicans or even guarantee him a key state or region - more on this in a later blog!

- The affect of Super PACs and their unlimited resourses spent on negative ads

- Unpredictable events which are beyond the of the control of both candidates:

* the unraveling Euro causing a world wide double dip recession and reversing the US economic recovery

* unforeseen negative developments in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan

* other unexpected surprises or crises on the world stage

And of course there are the televised Presidential and Vice-presidential Debates....Something to look forward to after the conventions!

The Prize

No matters who wins the presidency, one thing seems perfectly clear - the American people are deeply divided on which path to take going forward.

It also seems like the margin of control for either of the parties in both the Senate and House of Representatives is likely to be even smaller when this contentious election season is over.

This will make governing and reaching compromises for the president even more challenging - whomever wins the prize!

This blog can also be read on Sky News