According to the latest poll numbers released Monday, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are in a dead heat for the presidential seat, with an average of about 49 percent of voters committed to each candidate.
By way of comparison, Obama led John McCain by more than 7 percentage points at the same point during the 2008 race. In fact, this may be the closest election since John F. Kennedy squeaked by Richard Nixon in 1960, winning the popular vote by only .16 percent.
"We're a deeply polarized country," pollster with Franklin & Marshall College Terry Madonna said. "It's still basically an election about the economy and some voters are not convinced we're out of the recession and things are getting better. That's why the election is as close as it is." He said Romney has made great strides in garnering voter confidence regarding economic issues and has also gained on Obama when it comes to likeability.
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Madonna predicts that with those areas a virtual draw, the too-close-to-call election's outcome will now largely hinge on voter turnout. "Both parties are really focusing on get-out-the-vote drives, which are probably more important than in any other election in modern time," he said. He pointed to the special importance of several key battleground states, such as Florida, Virginia, Colorado and Ohio. "Nobody's going to fight too much in New York because they know who's going to win that state," he said. "The same with Texas. The battle is going to happen where it's close and only thousands of votes are separating the candidates. Whichever party can turn out its voters in those pivotal states will probably win this. This is now a ground game, a turn-out-the vote-election."
Regardless, Madonna said there’s a good chance that a clear winner won’t emerge tonight.
“You could have some states so contested that there will be court battles and challenges, which are already underway in states with early voting,” he said. “Most analysts think the president has a slight edge in the battleground states, but no one knows for sure what’s likely to happen.”