By tomorrow afternoon (NZ time) Americans will either have voted in a new president or for four more years of the current one. Their decision is critical, not only for their own nation but also for the global implications.
In some ways Republican challenger Mitt Romney seems an underwhelming choice who has made fair-weather calls on critical aspects of foreign policy, talks of huge tax cuts but offers little specific about how he would pay for them and has made some big flip-flops during electioneering - especially on Iran.
However, he has drawn close enough in current polling to President Barack Obama to suggest another four years for the Democrats is no mere formality. Whether this is due to the strength of his own campaign and policy spread, or a performance from Mr Obama that has often seemed surprisingly lacklustre, is another matter.
Mr Obama has held the key to the White House at a difficult time: the economy, both globally and domestically, has been sluggish, the war against terrorism has continued to be a fiscal drain as well as difficult to justify and he has had to wage debilitating political campaigns to get important legislation passed into law.
His first term has gone some way to rebuild America's reputation abroad, even if the infamous Guantanamo Bay offshore detention camp remains open and American drones continue to bring death to people, whether civilians or identified terrorist "targets", in foreign lands. Terrorist leader Osama bin Laden was finally captured and killed. More than a dozen other al Qaeda leaders have met similar fates over the past four years. An exit plan of sorts is emerging at last for the foreign troops in Afghanistan.
There has been employment growth in the US over the past 30 months - a key concern for the domestic economy - after a staggering 4.9 million jobs were lost in 2009. A key measure for his administration, the hugely controversial Affordable Care Act, has shrugged off legislative and legal challenges and brings a safety net of reliable health care to millions of Americans who previously did not have it - even if arguments over its affordability remain an issue for voters.
But Mr Obama's detractors would say that leadership requires more than flowery oratory. Last week's devastating storm not only battered the eastern coast but also blew some of the momentum out of the Romney challenge. At the same time, the destruction offered Mr Obama a chance to show that he could be a man of action as well as words, and gave voters the opportunity to compare his performance under fire with that of the last Republican leader, George W Bush.
The polling suggests that Mr Obama gained a tiny edge during the storm-related campaigning hiatus, but the result of the one poll that counts will be known soon enough. Mr Obama has done enough to deserve a second term; Mr Romney has not done enough to suggest he would be a credible alternative. From a global perspective, his election would raise alarm bells - in particular because of his obvious lack of a world view.
- © Fairfax NZ News