For several months Barack Obama and his Republican opponent, Mitt Romney, have been touring the lengths and depths of the United States campaigning to be the next President. With less than a month until the result on the 6th November, all eyes are on the Republican and Democratic candidates. This month the election coverage has begun its final push, starting Wednesday 3rd October, with the first of three televised debates between Obama and Romney.

The first of these debates took place at the University of Denver. Reports said the Republican candidate took command of the debate whilst Obama started nervously and remained hesitant throughout. This was reiterated in polls conducted by television channels, announcing Mitt Romney as the winner. Although Obama had led national polls prior to the debate, Romney’s win has boosted his campaign and in several cases he has taken the lead from the current President.

The next debate, which takes place on the 16th October, at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, is going to be crucial for the current President. The debate takes on a Town Meeting format where the audience, comprised of undecided voters, will be able to ask questions on both foreign and domestic issues. Similar to the first debate, the candidates will have a limited time in which to respond.

Over 70 million viewers tuned in to watch the candidates battle it out last week, the largest audience for a first debate since 1980. As one of the most important global elections, the ratings are set to stay high. Reports note that the debates have shown Obama and Romney together on the same stage for the first time, creating a new element to the elections. Furthermore, for many people, the first debate was their principal introduction to Mitt Romney.

In preparation for the next debate, Impact has shortlisted the top five things you need to know about the U.S elections, so that next time we know what we are watching:

1. The Candidates

We all know a lot about Barack Obama, the democratic president, but his rival is less familiar. Mitt Romney attended both Harvard Law School and Harvard Business School and was the governor of Massachusetts for two years. He has been campaigning for the presidency since 2007. Commentators have recognised Romney’s knowledge derived from a career as a business executive is one of his key selling points during a time of economic crisis.

2. Political Parties

The Republican Party has started on the back foot. Although Barack Obama’s popularity has decreased in recent years, it is said many Americans believe that although things haven’t got better, they haven’t got worse either. The Republican Party need to win several Swing States that voted for Obama in the last elections in order to secure the presidency. Romney needs to persuade voters that he and his party will do a better job than their current President.

3. The Key Debates

There are several key debates being discussed throughout the elections, from the economy to rights over abortion. Mitt Romney and the Republican Party are attacking Obama over several issues where they believe he and his party have failed. Reports state Romney wants to cut federal spending and reduce regulations that he believes have stifled economic growth, whereas Obama has spent billions of dollars investing in education, healthcare and energy research. The candidates have clashed over illegal immigration, energy, national security and abortion but do share similar goals in Afghanistan, hoping to withdraw from the country by 2014.

4. The Swing States

We hear a lot about Swing States during the U.S elections but what are they exactly? Throughout the United States there are many states that stay loyal to a particular party; Texas votes for the Republicans and California votes for their rivals, the Democrats. However, some states change each election, these are the Swing States. They are crucial to the campaign trail and both parties spend billions trying to secure their votes. The BBC reports on Ohio as one of the most important Swing States as it has correctly picked the successful presidential candidate in every election since 1960.

5. Polls and Predictions

In addition to the Swing States there are several states that lean towards one party or the other. The New York Times’ Electoral Map shows how states may vote according to polls and previous election results. At present, Minnesota, Michigan and New Mexico are leaning towards Obama, whilst Arizona, Indiana and Missouri are more likely to vote for Romney. The New York Times believe Obama has 185 states behind him compared to Romney’s 158. However, since the success of Romney in the first debate, many polls like the Rasmussen poll on the 9th October have shown Romney to push ahead of Obama in the race for the presidency. The 2012 election, which was once thought to be an easy road to re-election for the current President, has now been deemed unpredictable.

Alice Hajek

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