AMERICANS go to the polls today in a cliffhanger that analysts predict might end up in a tie, leaving the choice to Congress. Sandy did help the incumbent, as did two Republican heavyweights — New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. But Mitt Romney can still spring a surprise, so forceful has been his indictment of the Democratic administration’s economic performance. Indices over the last few weeks have favoured the president, but they cannot serve to veil the Obama administration’s lacklustre economic record since 2008. Mr Romney remains an unapologetic defender of corporate sharks, but asserts that his policies will help revive the economy, create jobs and restrict the state’s interventionist role. President Barack Obama has hammered home his foreign policy achievements — the end of the Iraq war, the drawdown from Afghanistan by 2014, and the crippling blows dealt to Al Qaeda, including Osama bin Laden’s killing. But the campaign has largely revolved around domestic issues, and that’s where Mr Obama is vulnerable. Most analysts agree it is the swing states that will clinch the election.
The real issue will be the victor’s post-election discomfiture, for neither Mr Obama nor Mr Romney will find it easy to push forward his agenda through a divided Congress. If Mr Obama gets a second term, he will have to face a lower house that is under Republican control, while a victorious Romney will have to deal with a Senate that has a Democratic majority, even if wafer-thin. The mid-term polls could further create problems for the winner and obstruct legislation on such key issues as a quick economic recovery, healthcare, combating climate change, and in Mr Romney’s case an extra $100bn for the Pentagon. For the world at large, there will be little change: notwithstanding differences in shades, American foreign policy is largely bipartisan. Mr Romney’s kind words for Pakistan contradicted his support for drone attacks, and Mr Obama’s June 4, 2009 speech in Cairo turned out to be nothing more than a PR exercise for he has failed to bridge the divide between America and the Muslim world.