The dead heat in the presidential race between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney brings back memories of the controversial 2000 election. But unlike 12 years ago, this time everyone is prepared to engage in legal battle. If the history of the 2000 presidential contest between George W. Bush and Al Gore is any indication of this year’s election, we could be heading toward a political cliffhanger. That’s because at this point – a week before election day on November 6 – the race between Obama and Romney might even be closer than that of 2000 between Bush and Gore. According to Real Clear Politics’ national average, a sort of aggregated poll of most national surveys, Romney currently leads Obama by less than one percent point – a virtual tie. Back in 2000, at the same time, most national polls had Bush in front by several points.
To be sure, for numerous reasons this election is very different from that of 2000: Obama is an incumbent, the economic situation is much worse and of course there is no third party candidate expected to garner almost three percent of the vote as Ralph Nader did 12 years ago.
And more importantly of course, as everyone around the world learned back then, the electoral college not the popular vote determines the outcome of the US presidential election. But since popular vote surveys are better at gauging the evolving national sentiment and trends than the more complex electoral college tallies, they are generally used as the preferred indicator to take the temperature of the race.