John King and Candy Crowley break down new swing state polls showing narrow margins between Obama and Romney.
The optimism once held by many Americans has been "beaten out" of them amid a lagging economy, threat of terrorism and two ongoing wars, according to a professor at Emory University.
"All of those things ... have made people start to be much more doubtful than they used to be," says Patrick Allitt, a British citizen who teaches American history.
Allitt recently wrote about what he describes as "America the miserable" - the mood swing he has seen in his 30 years in the U.S. - for The Spectator, a British magazine.
Allitt spoke with CNN about his perspective. Below is a transcript of that conversation, which has been edited:
CNN: How would you describe the change in America since you first came to America?
Allitt: The change is this: I don't get the same sense of intense self confidence as I used to feel when I first came to America, even though that was a period that's usually remembered as a pretty grim time - the Jimmy Carter years when there was a lot of stagnation and inflation and a general feeling of malaise. Even so, to me, it seemed incredibly energetic here. People in America worked much, much harder than they did in Britain. They seemed more upbeat. They had faith in progress. And there was this feeling of being intensely wide awake for the first time. But now, I think some of that optimism has been beaten out.
Counter: Why there's reason for optimism
It's been a very tough 10 years since 2001, hasn't it? The attack on the World Trade Center, the growing fear of terrorism, the difficulty of prevailing in the wars, obviously, more recently the recession. All of those things, collectively, have made people start to be much more doubtful than they used to be.
John Avlon, author of "Wingnuts: How the Lunatic Fringe is Hijacking America," railed this week on CNN against partisans on the far right and far left "that are always trying to divide rather than unite us."
He said on CNN's "American Morning" on Friday that "they really have developed a disproportionate influence over our politics that ends up drowning out most folks in the middle." He continued, "If independents could realize that there are more independents than Democrats or Republicans, I think we could help bring politics back to the center."
Fact Check: Are there more independent voters than Democrats or Republicans?
How do they influence elections?
- The CNN Fact Check Desk combed through a CNN poll to find the answer.
Wall Street Journal
In his election-night victory speech, Barack Obama said he would be a president for all Americans, not just those who voted for him. But as a candidate he didn't campaign with equal vigor for every vote. Instead, he and John McCain devoted more than 98% of their television ad spending and campaign events to just 15 states which together make up about a third of the U.S. population.
Today, as the Electoral College votes are cast and counted state-by-state, we will be reminded why. It is the peculiar mechanics of that institution, designed for a different age, that leave us divided into red states, blue states and swing states. That needs to change.
The Electoral College was created in 1787 by a constitutional convention whose delegates were unconvinced that the election of the president could be entrusted to an unfiltered vote of the people, and were concerned about the division of power among the 13 states. It was antidemocratic by design.
Under the system, each state receives votes equal to the number of representatives it has in the House plus one for each of its senators. Less populated states are thus overrepresented. While this formula hasn't changed, it no longer makes a difference for the majority of states. Wyoming, with its three electoral votes, has no more influence over the selection of the president or on the positions taken by candidates than it would with one vote.
iReport producer, CNN.com
We're hearing some compelling stories as voters head to the polls across the country today - but few can match the intensity of Los Angeles couple Doug and Tracie Van Doren.
Right now, the two are heading to Cedar Sinai hospital to have their first child. Earlier today, Tracie was standing in line to cast her vote when she started feeling contractions - then her water broke. She didn't want to get out of line, but had no other option.
Doug raced Tracie to her doctor, who confirmed the great news. Tracie asked if she could still vote. Her doctor said she had several hours before she needed to get to the hospital. "She wrote us a doctor's note," said Doug. "This is an important election for us, and we just didn't want to lose our chance to vote."
Back at the polling station, Tracie and Doug handed election officials their note. "They brought us right in and to the front of the line and we both voted right away," Doug said. He snapped a picture as Tracie cast her vote. "We're going to get a new baby and a new president all on the same day."
Tracie casting her vote.
See their iReport here.
Editor's Note: You can read more Jami Floyd blogs on “In Session”
In Session Anchor
The lines are long this election day and it is a glorious thing. Because there is no right more sacred in a democracy than the right to vote.
And for years we have taken that precious right for granted. Too many black folks have taken it for granted despite the heroes who gave their lives to give us the right to be counted as full citizens, empowered with this right to choose. For too long women have stayed home on Election Day despite our brave foremothers who so bravely stood for the right of their daughters and granddaughters to have the same choice as men. For too long the working poor have not appreciated the power we have to change our circumstances by casting a ballot.
But not today. Not anymore. Because after eight long years, set in motion by an election in 2000 that was stolen, not won, after six years of war with the wrong enemy and 4,189 soldiers lost and $700 billion later on the heels of a failed economic policy that led to the biggest bail out in U.S. history, Americans are waking up to a new day today. Election Day.
So make sure you are a part of it. Make sure your voice is heard. Don’t take anything for granted. And get out and vote.
Editors note: See more of Jami's posts at the In Session Blog
AC360° Associate Producer
My mom is the Judge of Elections for District 57 in Lancaster County Pennsylvania. She’s been working at the polls for the last fifteen years and said that she’s never seen voters come out in such record numbers before. Their polling location opened at 7 A.M., and by 2 P.M., over fifty percent of registered voters had already showed up. So far no major problems or delays.
Dennis and Holly Felmlee
We are serving our country in the Peace Corps in Romania. We received our absentee ballots on Monday, October 29, filled them out, and sent them via express shipping the same day. We paid $140 for the express service.
Here we are with our sealed envelopes in downtown Suceava, Romania. We were told our package would arrive on Monday, Nov 3. We hope so! We have always voted and really want our votes to count this year.
See more from these iReporters and others like them at iReport.com.
I had an interesting voting experience.
First, the back story: my wife and I moved from one part of the Upper West Side in New York to another part of the Upper West Side. Considering we’ve never left the neighborhood, this was a big bold step.
At the time of our relocation, my wife, Jenny, filled out a new voter registration form that noted the address change. I did not. She mocked me and said I would have to walk 10 blocks to vote while she just had to saunter over to the Public School 8 across our street and cast her ballot.
This morning, Jenny grabbed a coat and a cup of coffee and headed over to the school. My daughter and I strolled quietly behind her. Inside the polling center, a volunteer informed Jenny that her name was not on their manifest. Jenny asked the worker to check again. He did. The same result. Maybe you’re still registered at the old address?
CNN Senior Broadcast Producer
Those were the first words that came out of an Asian-American woman in her 50’s who stood three steps in line just ahead of me.
“For the first time in my life I voted!” she exclaimed in broken English.
You could see the look of pride in her face as she walked out from behind the curtain. She had come to the polling station, accompanied by a friend, and was full of nervous energy. She paced in and out of the line, basically jumping.
When it was her turn to sign in, she proudly stated her name, got the slip from the polling clerk and headed to the booth.
Inside the booth, she screamed, “What do I do now?!” The clerk explained, “You push the red lever to the right and vote.”
After several minutes of frustration, and asking for more help, you could hear her say all she wanted to do was vote for President.
She did, and walked out.
The polling station applauded—not because she finally moved in a line that had grown, but because it is for this woman, who left her home country for a new life in this country, that we have such a democracy… something that gets lost in the din of the two-year-long campaign. This woman is a testament to democracy.