The scenario for this presidential campaign was sketched out quickly following Mitt Romney's victory in the Republican presidential primaries earlier this year.
Romney would run on a hard-right platform that promised to rebuild a shattered economy with a combination of tax and spending cuts, that opposed the Affordable Care Act and that pledged a return to what party faithful call traditional conservative values. President Barack Obama, the Democratic incumbent, would run as the more experienced candidate whose steady hand and broad vision saved the United States from economic peril and whose policies promise a brighter and more stable future for ordinary American families.
While the basic outline of the campaign that concludes today was predictable, what has transpired since the primaries has been anything but certain. Momentum has changed, polls have see-sawed and the today's election, according to many prognosticators, remains fairly close or even too close to call. It's even possible that the Electoral College winner will not amass the highest number of popular votes, a rarity in U.S. history.
Despite such a possibility, it is likely that the popular and Electoral College votes will produce the same result. Each party, of course, confidently predicts victory today, but that's politics.
Republicans can point to Romney's recent national gains in some polls, slight, positive shifts in voter preferences in key states and some erosion in support for the president in groups that were key to his 2008 victory. Democrats, on the other hand, note steady support in states with large blocs of Electoral College votes, polls that indicate that Obama continues to lead in a majority of the so-called swing states and indications that his key constituencies -- women and minorities, particularly -- remain committed to him and his policies.
Democrats, on the whole, seem more confident than Republicans about the outcome, though they do worry that too many voters have been gulled into accepting Romney's canards about the economy and the proper prescription to cure its ills. The Republican continues to preach that tax cuts for the richest Americans pave the road to prosperity, though he's offered no proof that it is true or provided a blueprint for how his other sketchy proposals to right the economy work. He still insists that Obama is responsible for the nation's deficit, though he fails to acknowledge the truth that the nation's economic difficulties are tied directly to policies and issues inherited from George W. Bush and a complacent Congress.
Indeed, the entire Romney platform -- health care, especially, but also domestic and foreign policy-- is built on sleight-of-hand, innuendo, outright fabrication and the cult of personality. It's thin gruel that deserves overwhelming repudiation at the polls.
Obama's proposals and policies, on the other hand, are based on substance. Though the economy is still not a strong as the president or anyone else would like, it is arguably in far better shape now that it would be if GOP policies had prevailed in the last four years. Despite unprincipled and highly partisan opposition in Congress, the president has put the economy back on track, produced positive job growth, begun implementation of health care and other social programs that benefit all Americans, extracted the United States from ruinous wars and foreign entanglements and worked diligently to limit the unsavory influence of big money on the Washington law-making process. By any measure, the president has achieved a great deal against long odds.
Today's election will not end the nation's current difficulties or resolve all its pressing, long-term issues. Neither the president and Democrats nor Romney and the Republicans have a perfect plan for the future. Indeed, even if either did, a Congress likely to remain divided following the election will make it difficult for the winner, regardless of party, to implement all his policies. Still, Americans have a choice to make. President Obama's proven record, his platform and his willingness to advocate for every segment of U.S. society will best serve the nation. He merits voters' support today.