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September 20, 2017

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End of the road - the White House

The votes have not been counted yet, but it takes an incredible leap of faith to believe that Senator John McCain, the Republican standard-bearer, will win the U.S. presidential election. The pollster universe has Obama holding a steady lead for weeks now, not just nationally, but in most of the battleground states.

It is these battleground states that will determine the winner. In the American indirect election system each state votes for electors, and all but two states award all of those electoral votes to the winner in their state. That means that a one vote margin in any of the key battleground states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Florida could swing twenty or more of the 270 electoral votes required to win the presidency to McCain, but the likelihood of that happening in all three is about the same as seeing the pollster universe obliterated in a supernova explosion.

Should McCain pull off the upset of the century, there will be more than shock and awe felt around the world. The upheaval in the United States would be palpable and unpredictable, and you can be certain of intense feelings that the election was stolen, if not by outright fraud, then by the kind of racism and slander that most Americans want to bury in past history.

Election officials would rather see a landslide victory by either party in their state than a close result, regardless of their own political preferences. Close results are certain to be contested. An army of lawyers representing both parties is standing by to bring cases alleging voter suppression, registration fraud, and hacked voting machines that record more votes for a candidate than there are registered voters in the district. Add to this cases alleging improper handling of absentee and provisional ballots that states require when voters go to the wrong polling place or their identification documents don't perfectly match registration records.

None of these irregularities are new, and U.S. voting systems are considered by experts to be the most unreliable in the developed world. What would be new is the intensity of outrage among tens of millions of Americans if the final vote counts do not at least approximate what voters have been told day in and day out about poll results. Opinion polls shouldn't have such a telling effect on the American psyche, but the sad outcome of a very close contest would be more division in the United States than any of the candidates could have created by themselves. The ultimate outcome could make the 2000 election look like a minor disagreement among gentlemen.

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