(RNN) – The presidential election of 2012 looks like it’ll be close, which is nothing unusual given the past few elections. In the last 20 years, controversy and close shaves have been the norm.

In 1992, 1996 and 2000, the winner took office with less than half the popular vote.

Bill Clinton won in 1992 and 1996 with only a plurality of the vote because of strong third-party bids from independent billionaire Ross Perot.

In 2000, George W. Bush won the Electoral College but lost the popular vote to Vice President Al Gore in one of the nation’s most contentious elections. Then in 2004, Bush won reelection when a tight race in Ohio gave him a narrow Electoral College victory. If Ohio had swung the other way, Democrat Sen. John Kerry would have won. Kerry did not concede the election until late the next morning.

Ohio is again shaping up as the most important of about a dozen swing states that will decide the election. Both candidates have focused time, shoe leather and millions of dollars in advertising trying to win the Buckeye State’s crucial 18 electoral votes. No Republican has ever won the presidency without carrying Ohio, and though it’s mathematically possible for Mitt Romney to do so, it appears unlikely.

Most polls show President Barack Obama holding a slim lead in Ohio, but Romney began making up ground last month, and supporters hope his momentum will allow him to overtake the president.

Polls reflecting the national popular vote have fluctuated wildly in the final weeks of the campaign. Romney took a six-point lead in the respected Gallup Poll after the first Presidential Debate on Oct. 3, when he performed well and Obama appeared disengaged. Since then, national polls have showed one candidate or the other leading, but always within the margin of error.

Most last-minute polls reflect a statistical dead heat.

Obama has been the frontrunner in Electoral College projections, though a handful of swing states with close races hold the key to victory Tuesday – or maybe later, if counting provisional ballots, recounts or court challenges come into play. The president holds slim leads in most of the swing states, but his leads have dwindled in Iowa, Nevada, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, which have 60 electoral votes among them.

The candidates are statistically tied in Florida, Virginia, New Hampshire and Colorado, which total 55 electoral votes. Romney holds a slim, but diminishing lead in North Carolina.

Obama appears to hold substantial leads in states totaling 217 electoral votes; Romney is projected to lock down 191 electoral votes soon after the polls close.

It takes 270 to win.

Article Courtesy of WOIO 19 Action News