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People prepare to cast their ballots inside a polling station just after midnight on Nov 6, 2012, in Dixville Notch, New Hampshire, the very first voting to take place in the 2012 US presidential election. — Photo by AFP

Choosing a presidential candidate is not that different from choosing a rishta or a marital candidate. Similar questions may come to mind in both situations: what does this person offer? Are his/her interests similar to the person who’s looking to make the choice? Do they come from a good background? Do they have progressive views or are they conservative? What are their religious values? What experience do they have in their line of work? What are their future plans? Do they have a charming and attractive personality? Are they likeable? And so on and so forth.

At the end of the day, a decision has to made – of either staying with the person whom you might know but who did not turn out the way you expected or going for the new person. It is a tough decision. But the answer lies with the voter or within the heart – depending on the scenario.

Coming to the US presidential campaign, President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney had been looking for ways to outshine each other. Things worked in the favour of President Obama who recently shone through the remains of Superstorm Sandy. After the storm wrecked the northeastern coast, Obama toured New Jersey to assess the damage across the state and even managed to receive the support of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a die-hard Republican.

Few days into the tour, a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center showed that Obama was leading with 50 per cent among likely voters, weeks after a previous Pew poll showed the candidates in a deadlock at 47 per cent.

The survey goes on to reveal that the main concern for a majority of US citizens, an estimated 87 per cent registered voters, is the economy. Issues such as jobs, healthcare, education, the budget deficit, national security, foreign policy and immigration have been secondary.

Neither Obama nor Romney have expressed a sound enough resolve or plan on how to enhance growth when it comes to the economy of a country whose unemployment rate has edged up to of 7.9 per cent.

Looking at the campaign of presidential candidate Mitt Romney and his vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan, it seems that once elected, the Romney administration would repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), commonly called Obamacare. Incidentally, Obamacare is said to have been based on Romney’s healthcare plan in Massachusetts. Romney is also likely to cut taxes to favour the affluent, turn Medicare into a subsidised private insurance program, hugely increase defence spending and enforce domestic spending cuts – mainly aimed at Medicaid, food stamps and other programs designed to assist the poor.

As for Obama, he still seems to be carrying the burden of the financial crisis and military interventions – passed on to his shoulders from the Bush administration – while trying to push to the front his success with the General Motors bailout and the killing of Osama Bin Laden.

Coming to the subject of foreign policy, the last presidential debate can simply be summed up in one-word: “Agree.”

Both candidates have been in agreement on most of the issues as well on how to address those issues. Disagreement, however, appears to exist with respect to Iran with Romney seemingly wanting a war with the country and a better relationship with Israel.

On Pakistan and Afghanistan, both candidates want the troops to leave Afghanistan. Although, recent talks among authorities from the US, Afghanistan and Nato indicate that the US would maintain a modest presence in the war-torn country after the withdrawal of the 130,000-strong international force by the end of 2014.

Romney feels that if Pakistan fails to stabilise soon enough, it could create problems in Afghanistan. However, neither presidential candidate is ready to “divorce” Pakistan solely on account of the fact that Pakistan is a nuclear state in an unstable region.

Under Obama, the relationship between Pakistan and the US has been shaky with increased drone strikes in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata). A total of 350 strikes have occurred in Pakistan since 2004 – out of which, 298 were carried out during the Obama administration.

It seems that Romney and Obama do not have plans that differ much when it comes to foreign policy regarding Pakistan. But foreign policy is not the prime determining factor for voters —  the candidates’ takes on jobs and economic growth are the key issues where the voters’ interests lie.

Furthermore, a recent Gallup poll showed that 60 per cent of Americans see Obama as a liberal and Romney as a conservative. This comes with the fact that from August through October, presidential campaigning has created waves of negative and positive media coverage of both candidates. Moreover, polls have stated that social media has been the harshest critic.

According to predictions, the elections could be a tight race between both candidates since polls show that Obama is only slightly more favoured among likely voters.

Like a marriage, the decision of the American people would be for better or for worse, and unlike a traditional Pakistani marriage it would only last for four to eight years –depending on which candidate becomes the president.

For more special coverage on the US Elections including exclusive blogs, features, comments, analysis and multimedia from correspondents around the world, go to: US Elections 2012 In-depth

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