All indicators show an extremely close race as we enter the final week-and-a-half of the 2012 election. It seems that Romney has gained a slight lead in the popular vote, although different polls show leads for different candidates. The gambling markets, which have a solid track record and backed Obama with ten-to-one odds in 2008, are only giving him three-to-two this time. The president does have an easier path in the electoral college, giving him a better chance to win: Obama has more electoral votes locked up in states like California that solidly support him, so Romney has to win more of the uncertain swing states like Virginia and Florida to win the election. It appears that Ohio has an even chance of being the key state this year, and it is leaning to Obama -- but only by a 2.9 percent margin, and other tossup states have similar thin margins. If I were the president I would want a much more commanding lead going into election day, both in the electoral college and the popular vote, and I’m sure that his followers would want that, too.
This didn't have to be a close election. The conservative governance of the Bush years gave us multiple disasters, beginning with September 11, 2001 and closing with the 2008 financial crisis, and adding Iraq, Hurricane Katrina, and other fiascos in between. When Bush left the White House the country was ready for significant change, so much that Americans were willing to elect, for the first time, a black man to the presidency. I have contended since 2009 that if the Democratic Party had actually governed well and responded to these crises as they did during the Great Depression, with a massive Keynesian stimulus and a restoration of a healthy public sphere, then that party would be cruising to an easy victory this year, and would predominate in politics for the next generation or two, as they did after the New Deal.
But the current Democratic party doesn't play to win. They don’t govern to win while in office, nor do they usually promote a strategic vision or do tactical politics to win. Instead, they always play to not lose, or at best to win by small margins. Democrats rarely go for the jugular, while Republicans almost always do. This is why our political culture has become increasingly conservative for the last two generations. (I have actually heard Democratic pundits say, after a good election year, that they don’t want to win too many seats because they want to maintain the two-party system with a loyal opposition. But isn’t it that job of those actually in the opposition? Elections should reflect the will of the people. The system also fails when the winners fail to carry out the will of the voters, out of excess concern that the losers -- whom the voters just kicked out! -- are now in the minority.)