Obama on guns — and his State of the Union finally took off

President Barack Obama’s State of the Union last night was not, I am afraid, a speech to be long remembered.  It was good, but ordinary, although at the same time “extraordinarily ambitious,” as Ezra Klein writes on his Wonkblog:

“Imagine, for a moment, that President Obama managed to pass every policy he proposed tonight. Within a couple of years, every four-year-old would have access to preschool. The federal minimum wage would be at $9 — higher than it’s been, after adjusting for inflation, since 1981. There’d be a cap-and-trade program limiting our carbon emissions and a vast infrastructure investment to upgrade our roads and bridges. Taxes would be higher, guns would be harder to come by, and undocumented immigrants would have a path to citizenship. America would be a noticeably different country.”

That is unlikely to happen, as Los Angeles Times’ Doyle McManus writes, but if Obama meets his most significant and realistic goals – “immigration reform, even modest steps on gun control, an end to the U.S. combat role in Afghanistan, a free-trade agreement with Europe and, oh yes, implementation of Obamacare — and manages to keep the economy growing, even if slowly, that’s not a bad list. Plenty of two-term presidents have done worse.”

What Obama mentioned in his speech is clearly popular with the American public, according to Daily Beast’s Michael Tomasky but “the Republicans just sat there like statues ignoring” them. They are such crybabies every day about what Obama allegedly does to try to make them look bad. They’re doing plenty well at that themselves.”

“Long gone,” writes The New Yorker’s John Cassidy on his blog Rational Irrationality “is the era when he (Obama) treated Republicans as reasonable men and women with whom he could do business. Nowadays, he is in permanent campaign mode. With the ongoing dispute over taxes and spending still far from decided, he is intent on rallying his supporters whilst depicting his opponents as crazed ideologues and craven defenders of the privileges enjoyed by the ultra-rich. “

Well, ok. Still, in my view Obama’s fifth State of the Union never really took off until the end and when the subject was guns and gun control. “They deserve a vote,” Obama repeated time and again:

“Gabby Giffords deserves a vote; the families of Newtown deserve a vote; the families of Aurora deserve a vote; the families of Oak Creek, and Tucson, and Blacksburg, and the countless other communities ripped open by gun violence – they deserve a simple vote.”

“Our actions will not prevent every senseless act of violence in this country.  Indeed, no laws, no initiatives, no administrative acts will perfectly solve all the challenges I’ve outlined tonight.  But we were never sent here to be perfect.”

And the President returned to his them from the Inauguration about inclusiveness, about “us” and “we.”

”The American people don’t expect government to solve every problem.  They don’t expect those of us in this chamber to agree on every issue.  But they do expect us to put the nation’s interests before party.  They do expect us to forge reasonable compromise where we can.  For they know that America moves forward only when we do so together; and that the responsibility of improving this union remains the task of us all.”

Ryan Lizza in The New Yorker thinks that Obama’s urgent message that “they deserve a vote” may come to serve “as the rallying cry for 2013,”  and so “if last night was any indication, the two years to come will be far more confrontational. “

So, no political peace is to be expected in Washington.  But Obama, a much different and more self-confident President than in his first term,  got to say his peace, and he made his troops happy.

It’s “we” and “together” in Obama’s inclusive America

President Barack Obama’s second inaugural address today was all about ”we,” and ”we, the people,” about ”equality” and ”together.”  It was a clear and straight forward statement by the re-elected president about his view of America, a liberal/progressive view in an inclusive America  — a country for everyone.

The speech was elegant, inspiring, and passionate, given by someone who looked forward to his second term in the White House with renewed strength and great self-confidence, and it was the highlight of a most festive day in Washington, DC, where the crowds were not as large as four years ago, when almost two million people jammed The National Mall in spite of very chilly weather. But they were just as enthusiastic, clearly cherishing the moment that America’s first black president had been re-elected and handed the nation’s trust for another four years.

The president talked about America’s “never-ending journey” and that so much is remains to be done.

”Now, more than ever, we must do these things together, as one nation, and one people…This is our generation’s ask – to make these words, these rights, these values – of Life and Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness – real for every American.

The speech was an unabashed re-affirmation of Obama’s basic liberal political philosophy, saying that  ”preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action.”

He was full of hope and faith in America, if the nation stuck together:

“America’s possibilities are limitless, for we possess all the qualities that this world without boundaries demands: youth and drive; diversity and openness; an endless capacity for risk and a gift for reinvention. My fellow Americans, we are made for this moment, and we will seize it—so long as we seize it together.”

He talked about equal pay for women, equal treatment for gays, right to vote for everyone,  about the importance of social security, Medicare and Medicaid, the right of immigrants, and about gun control, without mentioning the word but referring to the ”quite lanes of Newtown” and keeping the nation’s children ”safe from harm.”

“We, the people,  still believe that every citizen deserves a basic measure of security and dignity. We must make the hard choices to reduce the cost of health care and the size of our deficit;  but we reject the belief that America must choose between the caring for the generation that built this country and investing in the generation that will build its future.”

Obama’s second inaugural address was free of political attacks and party politics. It contained no direct attacks on the Republicans, but, on the other hand, one could interpret the whole speech as Obama putting down his marker, that this is what he believes in, this is his America, and this is what he is going to fight for during his second term.

The details in his political program will come in his State of the Union address to Congress on February 12. That will also likely mark the continuation of Washington’s political battle. Will that fight be as merciless as before today’s inauguration? Probably, and maybe even more so… But, at least it is now totally clear where Barack Obama stands, and that feels liberating.

Less hope before Obama’s second inaugural

“We had all started early from home that beautiful but chilly January morning in 2009 in Washington, DC. We wanted to be sure to be there on The National Mall in the middle of the U.S. capital that day. The last stretch, all motor traffic was prohibited, and the streets were full of eager and smiling people on their way by foot to the heart of the capital.”

“The walk of my life,” said a young black man from Atlanta, Georgia, to me. We were among the almost two million people who wandered down to the monuments over the American nation’s two hundred year history to be part of something historic, something that we still found difficult to comprehend that it had happened, something we certainly did not want to miss — a black man had been elected President. We thought that maybe that might happen sometime in the future, maybe even in our lifetimes, but not this year, and probably not for many years to come.”

Those words are from my book America – Land of Dreams about the inauguration four years ago, when Barack Obama became America’s first black president, gave his inaugural address, and we said goodbye to the old America.

Obama’s speech that day was not of the same high quality we had been used to during the election campaign, and certainly nothing like his dramatic speech at the Democratic Convention in 2004, which launched him as a possible presidential candidate:

”There’s not a liberal America and a conservative America; there’s the United States of America. There’s not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there’s the United States of America.”

But his inaugural address in 2009 contained nothing really memorable and certainly nothing that has been subsequently quoted extensively. It was a speech in the deepest economic crisis for America since the Depression and with two ongoing wars. The speech refleced those somber times.

That’s nothing unusual, wrote Larry Sabato, professor at the University of Virginia, recently on his blog the Crystal Ball. Sabato wrote about numerable inaugural addresses in the modern era that no one remembers, certainly nothing like Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural address in 1965, when he said:

 “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds…”

Or 1933, in the middle of the Depression, when Franklin Roosevelt said:

“So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

But, Sabato wrote, “there is arguably only one speech that transcends the concerns of the moment and speaks to every generation anew, from beginning to end, without becoming dated,” and that was John F Kennedys inaugural address in 1961.

Some excerpts:

“Let the word go forth, from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans…”

“…[W]e shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and success of liberty.”

 “Now the trumpet summons us again — not as a call to bear arms, though arms we need; not as a call to battle, though embattled we are — but a call to bear the burden of a long, twilight struggle, year in and year out, ‘rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation’ — a struggle against the common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease and war itself.”

“And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”

Lincoln’s second inaugural address is regarded as much stronger than his first. Maybe we will say the same thing about Obama after tomorrow?  But times are different now and in 2009. The two million who gathered on The National Mall will likely be far fewer tomorrow, and the hope of big changes in Washington is no longer there. The political paralysis in Washington continues as America’s political and economic problems grow.

Back then in January 2009, we said goodbye to the old America, but we have not really succeeded in doing so during Obama’s first term. We are more seasoned now, less hopeful, more realistic.

Still, we should be heartened by the fact that with John F Kennedy a candidate’s religion is no longer an important election issue, the color of a candidate’s skin is no longer an issue with Obama.  In that sense, we are really able to bid farewell today to the old America.

“God fortsättning” in the New Year — that’s doubtful…

In Sweden, my old home country, we used to say “God fortsättning” after the holidays — “good continuation” in the New Year. That’s not an expression you hear in America, which is perhaps as well, particularly in these times of the financial cliff, the debt ceiling, and the political disharmony in Washington.

Yes, the cliff was avoided but at what price? Was it worth it?

New York Times columnist Paul Krugman recently wondered if the deal was a “Pyrrhic victory,” a tactical victory that could pave the way for a major defeat later this year. Yes, the victory was tactical in the sense that the Republicans in Congress for the first time since 1993 voted for a tax increase. But what else? It did nothing to resolve the country’s major economic problems, the debt, budget deficit, unemployment. The settlement contained no new stimulus money to invest in the woefully neglected infrastructure or to create new jobs. Remember, the U.S. still has almost eight percent unemployment. Last Friday’s figure of 155,000 new jobs during December was certainly acceptable, but not more. Many more jobs are needed, every month, to seriously tackle the unemployment crisis.

In the deal, President Obama had to give up on his campaign pledge to raise taxes for everyone earning more than 250,000 dollars per year. Instead, the limit was set at 450,000 dollars, meaning than less than one percent of American tax payers will see their taxes increase. Those are not middle class figures. These are high income earners, who will now be exempted from paying their fair share at the same time as more revenues are needed but when Americans are paying less in income tax than the populations of other developed countries. As Stephan Richter pointed out in The Globalist:

“In all the other countries that come to mind, protecting such levels of income is the sole preserve of conservative parties. In the United States, it is a matter of bipartisan consensus.”

Yes, America IS different from Europe –it’s certainly more conservative. In America, taxes are toxic in a way they don’t seem to be in Europe, maybe because Europeans feel that they get something for their taxes, like universal health care, good public transportation, and affordable education all the way through college?

Washington is also similar to Brussels, if you read The Economist, which called the cliff deal an “abject failure” — “Washington’s pattern of dysfunction is disturbingly similar to the euro zone’s.”

But Europe has also made progress, averted disaster and come together around the euro, as Floyd Norris recently wrote in the New York Times, wondering: “Will the United States follow the European path in 2013? Let’s hope so.”

That’s not likely to happen. With the debt ceiling crisis and the resolution of the automatic spending cuts looming in a couple of months, the Republicans seem primed for revenge after the cliff deal, which could make the cliff deal negotiations come to seem like child’s play.

“Good continuation…” well, the New Year actually doesn’t look that good.

Will President Obama finally take on the gun lobby?

”We’ll see what happens. Obama still has to do something other than speak”, writes Amy Davidsons today on her blog ”Close Read” in The New Yorker.  Exactly!

ObamainNewtownBut President Obama’s speech last night to the grieving citizens of Newtown, Connecticut, was not like his speeches in Tucson, Arizona; Aurora, Colorado; or Fort Hood, Texas — scenes of previous mass killings during his first term as president – it went further, maybe even a lot further. And it had a different tone, more impatient, sadder, but also more full of resolve, and — more political.

We can’t tolerate this any more. These tragedies must end. And to end them, we must change,”  he said and promised something he had not previously promised during his four years in the White House:

 ”In the coming weeks, I will use whatever power this office holds to engage my fellow citizens — from law enforcement to mental health professionals to parents and educators — in an effort aimed at preventing more tragedies like this. Because what choice do we have? We can’t accept events like this as routine. Are we really prepared to say that we’re powerless in the face of such carnage, that the politics are too hard? Are we prepared to say that such violence visited on our children year after year after year is somehow the price of our freedom?”

These sentences have resulted in the new hope that Obama, for the first time — finally, is ready to take on America’s culture of weapons and the country’s laws on weapons, or lack of laws. Can the tragedy in Newtown become the ”the tipping point?” We don’t know, but the pressures on the president to do something and fight for what he seems to believe in — to fight the “good fight” — even if that fight does not produce a victory against the gun lobby and its many supporters in Congress, have increased rapidly and markedly since Newtown.

What he can propose is well illustrated on the Washington Post’s “Wonkblog.” But the fight won’t be easy, regardless of strategy and proposals. There are no simple solutions, because the fight concerns a key issue for the American society. It’s about the “god Gun,”  as the historian Garry Wills writes on the New York Review of Books’ blog, which:

  • Has the power to destroy the reasoning process.
  • Has the power to turn all our politicians as a class into invertebrate and mute attendants at the shrine.
  • Has the power to distort our constitutional thinking. It says that the right to “bear arms,” a military term, gives anyone, anywhere in our country, the power to mow down civilians with military weapons. Even the Supreme Court has been cowed, reversing its own long history of recognizing that the Second Amendment applied to militias. Now the court feels bound to guarantee that any every madman can indulge his “religion” of slaughter.

Fear can pave the way to avoid the “financial cliff”

I haven’t blogged much lately, in fact, very little since the November 6 elections. I needed a break, and I hope you haven’t missed me too much. In any case, I am back with the goal of writing more about issues beyond politics and the political quagmire here in Washington.

My blog posting yesterday about the death of jazz legend, Dave Brubeck, was part of that effort, and I hope to continue so. But, first, I must write about the “financial cliff” – the financial Armageddon that looms at the end of the year if the White House and Congress cannot agree on a new approach on how to solve America’s serious financial problems and growing national debt.

It’s already a month since President Barack Obama’s convincing victory over the Republican challenger Mitt Romney. The Republicans are still trying to come to terms with what actually happened and why. Meanwhile, all eyes in Washington have been focused on the “fiscal cliff,” by some called the “austerity crisis,” a matter of seldom seen proportions and seldom seen consequences if not dealt with before the New Year. If the White House and Congress cannot come to an agreement, a series of automatic events – all extremely negative — will unfold, both on taxes and on budget cuts.

The financial cliff came about because of previous failures in Washington after the big debt ceiling crisis of 2011 to lower the budget deficit and the national debt. The parties decided to postpone the tough decisions – kick the can down the road, as it is so often put. So, no one imposed the cliff on Washington – the politicians did it this to themselves, and they will go down together if there is no deal before December 31, although polls show that most voters will blame the Republicans.

If there is no deal, all American will see their taxes go up next year — by an average of 3 446 dollars. In addition, 200 billion dollars in tough spending cuts will take effect. A non-deal will cause the U.S. economy to shrink and unemployment to turn upwards, to over 9 percent. That would be not only a shame, it would be catastrophic for an economy that now shows encouraging signs of steady improvement, including steadily lower unemployment figures – to now 7.7 percent, the lowest since December 2008, just before Obama entered the White House.

Indeed, it’s a frightening scenario, and, for many, it seems incomprehensible that the White House and Congress will let this happen. Too much is at stake, both politically for the parties, and economically for the whole country. No one wants to be blamed for such a collapse and common sense says that there will be a deal. But time is rapidly running out in this “magic moment,” for a deal, as a leading Democrat put it recently. There is no better time than right now to make a deal.

So far, the Republicans have resisted the “balanced approach” — with tax rate hikes for the richest two percent of the population, those with incomes of over 250,000 dollars per year, combined with a series of spending cuts – an approach on which Obama campaigned and won the election. Stubbornly, the Republicans have so far said no to all tax rate hikes, but without them, Obama has repeatedly and firmly stated, there will be no deal.

During the election campaign, the majority of voters seemed to think that Obama’s “balanced approach” was sensible, and those sentiments linger. The President’s approval ratings are up, over 50 percent, and he is now clearly in the driver’s seat.

Maybe, in the end, plain fear of a failure and the subsequent wrath of the voters, who want a deal and want Washington to come together, will drive the parties together to reach an agreement. There have been cracks in the unified resistance among the Republicans in Congress to higher taxes. No doubt they see the writing on the wall.

If the Republicans don’t meet Obama partway, they “would contribute to a recession that would discredit them for a decade,” David Brooks warns in the New York Times today.

Fear… fine! Who cares? The main thing is that there is a deal before midnight strikes on December 31.

Shocked Republicans face a new political reality

The air during the walks in the woods outside Washington, DC a few days after Barack Obama’s convincing victory is somehow easier to breathe under the clear, blue November sky.  It’s been a long, an awfully long, campaign, emotionally draining. Most are just happy that it’s over, and at least 61 million voters are happy about the outcome.

The American voters chose the man they trusted to continue to lead them in these difficult economic times, while Mitt Romney, his challenger, beckoned to an old America as he asked the voters to trust a man they really did not know, a man who would not release his tax returns, who never explained why he invested money in tax havens in the Cayman Islands or in Switzerland, who denied his own moderate political record as a governor of Massachusetts, supportive of a woman’s right to choose, implementer of universal healthcare in his home state.

The bruising Republican primary campaign forced him steadily further to the right, and by the time he won and became the party’s presidential nominee, it was too late change in a credible way. 

As conservative columnist Kathleen Parker writes in the Washington Post today:

“The truth is, Romney was better than the GOP deserved. Party nitwits undermined him, and the self-righteous tried to bring him down. The nitwits are well-enough known at this point — those farthest-right social conservatives who couldn’t find it in their hearts to keep their traps shut. No abortion for rape or incest? Sit down. Legitimate rape? Put on your clown suit and go play in the street.  Equally damaging were the primary leeches, who embarrassed the party and wouldn’t leave the stage. Nine-nine-nine, we’re talking about you, Herman Cain. And Gov. Oops?  You, too. And then there were Rick Santorum and Michele Bachmann, who never had a real shot at the nomination and certainly could never win a national election, yet they refused to surrender to the certain nominee.”

The name of Newt Gingrich should be added to these names.   

The result was that the “Etch-a-Sketch” in the last month of the election campaign, when “severely conservative” Romney suddenly turned moderate, never worked. By then, the Obama campaign had already defined him for the voters and they did not trust him, he did not care about the ordinary voter.

The end result was an Obama victory by 332 electoral votes to Romney’s 206 – way more than the necessary 270 to win.  Of the nine battleground states, Obama only lost North Carolina. That means that Obama captured 61,7 million votes compared to Romney’s 58,5 million, or 50,6 percent compared to 47,9 percent.

The Romney campaign, which up to the last moments really believed they would win, never knew what hit them according to John Dickerson in a fascinating piece in Slate Magazine.

“Mitt Romney says he is a numbers guy, but in the end he got the numbers wrong. Even on the morning of the election, Romney’s senior advisers weren’t close to hedging. They said he was going to win decisively…How did the Romney team get it so wrong? According to those involved, it was a mix of believing anecdotes about party enthusiasm and an underestimation of their opponents’ talents.”

Instead, Barack Obama won among Blacks (93 percent), Hispanics (71 percent), and Asians (73 percent), among women (53 percent) and among working women with children under 18 (62 percent), among gays and lesbians (76 percent), among those between 18 and 29 (60 percent) and those between 30 and 44 (52 percent), among those in big cities (69 percent) and those in cities up to 500 000 people (58 percent), among Jewish voters (69 percent) and Catholics (52 percent,)  among those without a high school diploma (64 percent) and among those with a post-graduate degree (62 percent,)  and among those earning less than 50,000 dollars (56 percent).

Romney won among men (52 percent), among those above 45 years of age, among white voters (59 percent) among those with incomes above 50,000 dollars per year, among Independents (50 percent), and among those in the suburbs (50 percent), the small towns (56 percent) and in rural America  (61 percent). And he won the protestant votes, including the white born-again or evangelical Christians (78 percent).

His support was white, old, and rural, when all demographic trends point to a younger, multi-ethnic, and more urban America.  That’s a losing proposition. It’s the old America vs. the new America, and the Republicans, in a state of shock, have suddenly come face to face with this political reality. A long and fierce internal debate is expected whose outcome is far from certain. 

That debate is taking place as America faces a fiscal cliff by year’s end, when almost one trillion dollars in automatic budget cuts will be implemented at the same time as taxes are raised for everyone, if a new budget deal is not struck before that.  The cliff is of Congress’s own making when it failed last year to reach a budget deal.  The question is: are the players more ready now? We will soon know.

America’s voters chose Obama and the future

And so, America did the right the ting and chose the future.

The historic election of 2008, when the American voters made Barack Obama the nation’s first African-American president and bade farewell to the old America, was re-enforced yesterday when Barack Obama got enough support for another four years in the White House.

His victory was not quite as overwhelming as four years ago, when Obama beat John McCain by ten million votes and won 365 electoral votes to McCain’s 173, but it was a solid, even sweeping, victory. The coalition that Obama built up with the young, women, African-Americans, Hispanics and white union members in the Rust Belt, lost only two states, Indiana, traditionally Republican, and North Carolina, both of which Obama surprisingly had won in 2008. Yesterday, he won the rest of the battleground states: Nevada, Colorado, Iowa, Wisconsin, Ohio, New Hampshire, Virginia and Florida, although his victory in Florida is not yet official. If his lead there is confirmed he will win 332 electoral votes against Romney’s 206.

When Obama gave his victory speech in Chicago, the joy and jubilation from the Obama coalition of whites, African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians, young, old, knew no bounds. They belonged to the new and once again victorious America, and they represented the country’s new politics. Over 90 percent of the country’s black voters chose Obama; over 70 percent of the Hispanics and the Asians voted for the president; over half of the women gave him their support; and the trade unions members in the Rust Belt also voted for the man who had saved the auto industry early in his first four years in the White House.

They did not want to retreat and turn back to a time that had led to two wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and to the deepest U.S. economic crisis since the ’30s depression, to return to the old America, dominated a white electorates, like that overwhelmingly white crowd in Boston who had voted for Mitt Romney but who now somberly, almost in shock, listened to their candidate’s concession speech.

That old America was not enough yesterday, as it had not been in 2008, to win a presidential election. The conclusion must be that it is no longer possible for the Republicans to win a U.S. presidential election only with the support of the country’s white voters. There are simply no longer enough white voters – 72 percent of all voters yesterday were white – to win. That trend will continue and even strengthen in the coming years because of the continued demographic changes in America’s population. America will be less and less white. Republicans need to think about and change, but if they are able to do so is an entirely different matter.

Much of the campaign focused on polls and forecasts and many questioned if they were right in their predictions. They were. Forecasters such as Nate Silver on his New York Times blog FiveThirtyEight had predicted 307 electoral votes for Obama, and Simon Jackman, the Stanford professor, who in his Huffington Post blog also had predicted over 300 electoral votes for Obama

More later today. Meanwhile, here’s President Obama’s rousing victory speech last night in Chicago.

Victory for Obama…if all the polls are not wrong

As Barack Obama and Mitt Romney continue to stump frenetically to utilize every last hour of the remaining presidential election campaign, their most important message is about the importance of voting. And tomorrow, we will see how good the two campaign organizations really are in getting people to actually go to vote.

There is optimism in both camps, especially from the Obama campaign while the Romney’s campaign is “cautiously hopeful,” as Carl Cannon writes in RealClearPolitics today.

From the media, apart from Fox News, there is a steady message that Obama will win. Larry Sabato, the highly respected professor at the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, joined this chorus today on his Crystal Ball blog. He predicted 290 electoral votes for Obama against 248 for Romney in that Obama would win in six of the nine swing states: Colorado, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio and Wisconsin. So even if Romney would win in the other three, Virginia, North Carolina, and Florida, it will not enough to capture the necessary 270 electoral votes and win the election. Sabato also predicted continued Democratic majority in the Senate and continued Republican rule in the House of Representatives.

So if you believe all the polls and most of the pundits, president Obama will be reelected — if they are not all wrong, which is unlikely, but, perhaps, still possible.

Howard Kurtz, media critic at the Daily Beast:

“If Obama somehow manages to lose, it will be a stunning defeat for the nation’s first African-American president. But it will be overpriced a crushing blow for the punditocracy that headed into Election Day filled with confidence that Obama had it in the bag. And Fox News will not let the mainstream media hear the end of it.”

And Mike Allen at Politico in his daily email:

“And yet, enough is uncertain about the samples and the mood of the nation, that lots of people we respectfully would not be SHOCKED if Mitt Romney pulled it out. They’re not expecting it, or betting their own money on it – but it’s not impossible. Put another way: Most Democrats will be surprised if they lose; many top Republicans will be surprised if they win. And that’s what makes this such a delicious 36 hours for political junkies: The great political minds THINK they know where things are headed. But most of them realize they could be wrong.”

But let me remind you that not only the polls are on Obama’s side. History is also on his side, for it has proven extremely difficult to defeat a sitting president. That has only happened four times since 1912, when Woodrow Wilson defeated William Howard Taft, 1932 when Franklin Roosevelt beat Herbert Hoover, 1980, when Ronald Reagan won over Jimmy Carter and 1992 when Bill Clinton defeated George HW Bush. Should Romney win tomorrow it will be something of a historical sensation.

The last week of campaigning has gone well for Barack Obama. He was strengthened politically in the wake of the tragedy of Hurricane Sandy, not least because Romney was forced to the sidelines, with no role, unable to conduct his election campaign. But Obama was also strengthened by the words of praise from Republicans like New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and former Secretary of State Colin Powell, as well as from the country perhaps leading independent voice, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

The campaign somehow took a new direction and Obama got new wind in his sails. It may prove to be decisive tomorrow.

Here’s the situation in the campaign’s last frantic hours

Less than 48 hours before Election Day and the pace is frantic. The candidates jump from state to state in search of voters while new pieces of information about early voting, opinion polls, rumors, predictions, and speculation in the media are now sweeping across the country.

By Tuesday, the last chance to vote, around 60 percent or 130 million Americans are expected to have cast their ballots. Let’s look at the numbers in the final phase of the presidential contest, but also in the Senate elections, where 33 seats are at stake, the House of Representatives, where all 435 seats are contested, and in the eleven governors races.

The President:

It’s very even, everyone says. Those who really keep track of all numbers and all the polls predict a decisive victory for Barack Obama, while the more traditional political pundits are more cautious. It remains to be seen who gets it right, but if the polls do not prove completely wrong, I am willing to put my money on political statisticians like Nate Silver and Simon Jackman.

Nate Silver on his blog FiveThirtyEight in the New York Times assesses President Obama’s victory chances to be 85 percent and for Obama to win 307 electoral votes — 270 are required for victory. In 2008, Obama won 365 electoral votes to John McCain’s 173.

Simon Jackman, professor at Stanford University and like Silver a political statistician, writes on his blog in the Huffington Post that the most likely scenario is that Obama gets 332 electoral votes. Jackman thinks that in seven of the nine battleground states — Nevada, Colorado, Iowa, Wisconsin, Ohio, New Hampshire, Virginia, North Carolina and Florida – an Obama victory is likely, even very likely. In crucial Ohio, Obama’s victory chances are 90 percent, in Wisconsin nearly 99 percent, in Iowa and Nevada over 90 percent, in New Hampshire just under 90 percent, and in Colorado 70 percent. Florida is too close to call while North Carolina is likely going to Romney.

The Senate:

Only twelve of the 33 Senate seats are really contested. In the end, most think the Democrats will retain their majority, even increase it a bit from today’s majority of 51 with two independents voting with the Democrats, against 47 Republicans.

Arizona: Republican Jon Kyl retires and the battle to replace him is surprisingly even in this normally solid Republican state. Democrat Richard Carmona has a chance to beat Republican Jeff Flake. If so, it would be a huge upset.

Connecticut: Independent Joe Lieberman retires and Democrat Chris Murphy is favored to take his place against wrestling queen and millionaire Republican Linda McMahon, who has already failed once to become a Senator from this democratic state.

Indiana: Republican and veteran Senator Richard Lugar was upset in the Republican primary election by Tea Party favorite Richard Mourdock, who now seems to have to pay for his extremism on abortion and rape, as Democrat Joe Donnelly is favored to win. A sensational outcome in this solid Republican state, where Obama won in 2008 but where he has no chance to win this year.

Massachusetts: Democrat Elizabeth Warren is favored to defeat Republican Senator Scott Brown in one of the most Democratic states in the country. Brown won surprisingly a special election a couple of years ago after Ted Kennedy’s death, but with Obama on the ballot this year, Brown is heading for a probable defeat.

Missouri: Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill is heading for a surprising re-election in this conservative state due to another Tea Party favorite Todd Akin’s many stupid statements about abortion and rape.

Montana: Extremely even race between Democratic Senator Jon Tester and his Republican challenger Danny Rehberg, although Romney is the clear favorite in this state.

Nevada: Republican Senator Dean Heller is expected to defeat Democrat Shelley Berkley, but if Obama wins big in Nevada, Berkley might squeeze out a victory.

North Dakota: Democrat Kent Conrad retires and Republican Rick Berg is expected to take his Senate seat by beating Democrat Heidi Heitkamp, but the race is very even.

Ohio: Democrat Sherrod Brown is expected to be re-elected.

Pennsylvania: Democrat Bob Casey is expected to be re-elected.

Virginia: Democrat Jim Webb retires and two ex-governors are fighting to replace him, with Democrat Tim Kaine a slight favorite over Republican George Allen. Obama and Romney are also involved in a tight race in this state.

Wisconsin: Democrat Herbert Kohl retires and his party colleague Tammy Baldwin is expected to beat Republican Tommy Thompson, albeit extremely narrowly.

The House of Representatives:

The Republicans are expected to retain their majority – 240 to 193 with 3 vacancies – among the 435 members of the House of Representatives. Although the Democrats are expected to pick up a few seats, it will not be enough, and Speaker John Boehner is expected to continue to lead the House for another two years.

The Governors:

There are elections for governor in eleven states. No matter what happens, the Republicans will continue to dominate on the state level, controlling at least 30 of the 50 governorships.