As we pass the halfway mark in the Republican primary race, pills the American electorate remains unsure as to whom their current president will face in the upcoming presidential election.

Whatever the outcome, patient the latest New York Times/CBS News poll suggests that Barack Obama will remain in the White House for a second term. Despite this revelation, the poll simply reminds us how volatile the American political landscape currently appears.

Just over a month ago, in the same poll, President Obama won a 50% approval rating from poll respondents. In spite of improving job growth, Obama has suffered a 9% drop in this month’s poll. In fact, he lost support with all poll respondents except for the demographic group earning over $75,000 per year.

Even with this drop in his approval rating in all of the hypothetical head-to-head match ups, Obama comes out as victor. 48% of voters would vote for Obama over Rick Santorum. In the head-to-head against Romney, Obama achieved 47% over Romney’s 44%. The drop in the president’s approval rating in this poll is not in isolation as the ABC news/Washington Post poll recorded a 4% drop in Obama’s approval rating.

Although the Obama camp is experiencing some turbulence, the Republican nominees are also encountering unrest. 34% of Republican primary voters wish to see Santorum facing Obama compared to 30% favouring Mitt Romney. Romney, who turned 65 last Monday, recently stumbled into turmoil as reports emerged that his company, Bain Capital, have close links with Chinese government surveillance.

Political analysts have raised questions about the role that American companies play in equipping authoritarian governments with technology that can be used to repress their citizens. Romney has vigorously tried to tackle this issue and accused the Obama administration of placing economic concerns above human rights when involving themselves in relations in China.

In a statement on his official campaign website Romney requested that the White House offer more support to those who criticise the Chinese communist party.

Meanwhile, Rick Santorum has been in the news for the wrong reasons after comments he made when he visited Puerto Rico. He asserted that if Puerto Rico were to become a state it would have to take English as its official language. “Like any other state, there has to be compliance with this and any other federal law,” Santorum claimed.

However his claims are unfounded, as there is no rule in the US constitution requiring the adoption of English for the admittance of new states. After the slip up, the Santorum team found themselves in damage control mode and the co-chairman of his campaign in Puerto Rico, Henry Neumann, said that Santorum meant that it is only important for young people to learn English.

Newt Gingrich is currently placed third in the Republican nominations race. On Wednesday March 16, he spoke to his supporters in Chicago and it is reported that he made no mention of ending his campaign any time soon. In fact he said quite the opposite and made reference to his plans to take his campaign all the way to the convention in August. Gingrich believes that his campaign has sparked debate that Romney’s ad money could never achieve. Gingrich’s decision to remain in the race is potentially harmful to Santorum’s campaign as he is forced to share the anti-Romney vote with him.

Romney believes that Santorum’s efforts to slander his campaign are simply endeavours to drag down the inevitable nominee. In an interview with CNN on Tuesday March 13, Romney claimed that Santorum was at the “desperate end of his campaign.” This assumption appears to be right if we refer to the Romney-Obama head-to-head poll. However, looking at the view of the polled Republican primary voters, Romney’s supposition is wrong.

The final candidate is Ron Paul. Paul is not achieving highly in any polls, or indeed in the primary race, and has failed to win a single primary. Despite this, Paul seems content to use this opportunity to portray his libertarian message to the American public. Paul could still become the nominee, however this would require a considerable change in the attitudes of the Republican primary voters.

With 23 primaries left, it is still very uncertain who the Republican nominee will ultimately be.

Peter Hamilton