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2 days to go, Obama sits pretty

With less than 75 hours left before the United States votes to choose its next president, Americans are on the edge of their seats. Pramit Pal Chaudhuri reports.Special Coverage

world Updated: Nov 02, 2008 19:50 IST
Pramit Pal Chaudhuri

With less than 75 hours left before the United States votes to choose its next president, Americans are on the edge of their seats.

“I wish this election was over already. The tension is killing me,” said Missouri businessman Emmet Pierson, who like many African Americans still can’t quite believe one of his own is the frontrunner.

White suburban mother Laura Ziegler admitted, “In the past, no one paid too much attention to an election. This is one everyone's talking about.”

Election administrators, expecting a history-breaking turnout, have been urging Americans to take advantage of early voting. Leftwing and rightwing radio talk show hosts were exhorting their flock on how to avoid “four-hour booth waits”.

Even in the relatively relaxed US heartland, the adrenaline is rising. In immaculate suburbs, one can see Obama yard signs defaced with communist hammer-and-sickles and McCain buntings covered over with swastikas.

Everything points to a Barack Obama victory. Totting up just the deep blue states — the colour used to indicate strong Democratic support — gives him the 270 electoral college votes he needs to secure the election.

But his chief strategist, David Axelrod, warned the faithful against complacency. Obama ends virtually every speech with an exhortation: "Make sure you vote." Democratic strategy depends a lot on high turnout, especially among minorities and the young. Both groups are wildly pro-Obama but fickle about turning up at the booths.

Republicans are pinning hopes on the roughly 7 per cent undecided voters. Democratic pollster Craig Charney pointed out that the eight social segments, like elderly women, with the highest uncertainty factors are all Republican-leaning. They are also prone to pay attention to Obama's skin colour.

Even the total defection of these groups would not be enough to save John McCain. But it would make Obama's margin razor-thin. That would open the door for small factors tipping the scales. These could be a sudden downward tick in a subtrend — like increasing Joe the Plumber-inspired fears about Obama's tax plans.

It seems unlikely. McCain's campaign is running on empty. It is denying its own workers airplane tickets and hotel compensation. Both candidates are confining their travels to about a dozen swing states and buying all the local TV time they can. The difference is that Obama is outspending McCain 10 to 1 in some places. The presidency is now Obama's to lose.