An Obama vs. Romney race poised to offer Bush v. Gore-style drama

The 2012 election has all the makings of the epic Bush v. Gore battle of the 2000 presidential election.

With less than 2,000 votes separating Gore and Bush when the polls closed on Election Night 2000, ; ; the final result in Florida was slim enough to necessitate ; a subsequent recount process to determine who would win the state’s 25 electoral votes. George W. Bush was not declared the winner for almost three weeks after the election — having received fewer popular votes than Gore. ; ; ; ; ;

Recent polling suggests that the 2012 presidential election is going to be extremely competitive and could very well be decided by a narrow or even one state victory, or a situation where one candidate wins the popular vote and the other wins the electoral college. ;

While Obama holds a narrow lead over likely Republican challenger Mitt Romney overall, his reelection has certainly not inspired a great deal of enthusiasm among voters overall.

With enthusiasm about voting in the election down across the board, ;according to Gallup’s latest poll, President Obama will be hard-pressed to garner either the turnout or the margin he enjoyed in 2008 when he defeated John McCain with 52.8 percent of the vote.

Elections are always referenda on the incumbent, and the findings from the most recent Washington Post/ABC News poll that a majority of voters are still deeply pessimistic about the overall direction of the country and largely consider the economy still mired in a recession only underscores the difficulty the president will have in making the case that what he’s done in the past four years has made a positive difference.

Indeed, the Washington Post poll found that the president has lost serious ground ; when it comes to his handling of key issues like the economy and jobs — with about as many trusting Romney on the issues as Obama.

There are also three voting groups that can severely harm Obama’s chances of reelection if they decide not to support him like they did in 2008. Indeed, Latinos, young voters and independents all supported Obama in 2008, but their support has fallen more than the national average since his inauguration.

Given his weak personal ratings, the president has his work cut out for him in winning back the support of key voting groups — whose support was largely responsible for his victory in 2008.

And with Mitt Romney holding a five-point lead among Independents (45 percent to 40 percent), the president’s position with independents is now weaker than it had been just a few weeks ago – when a USA Today/ Gallup survey reported in late March that the president held a ten-point advantage over Mitt Romney among independent voters in 12 key swing states. ;

Put simply, we are looking at a 51 percent to 49 percent election — where a few votes in a few states may make the difference. ; ;

Douglas E. Schoen is a Democratic pollster, strategist, and commentator. ; ; Schoen, who served as a pollster for President ;Bill Clinton, is author of several books including the forthcoming “Hopelessly Divided: The New Crisis in American ;Politics ;and What It Means for 2012 and Beyond” (Rowman and Littlefield)

I invite you to follow me on Twitter @DouglasESchoen