Close race makes up for waning zeal in US expat vote
* Republicans, Democrats court expat vote in close race
* Enthusiasm for Obama wanes among U.S. voters in Europe
* Absentee ballots could be decisive again in close states
By Erik Kirschbaum
BERLIN, Oct 28 (Reuters) - With the U.S. presidential election too close to call, hundreds of thousands of Americans living in Europe have been posting their absentee ballots with a sense that they could truly make a difference on Nov. 6.
From Berlin to Paris and London to Madrid, they have closely tracked the battle between Democrat President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney, though the emotional temperature is several degrees lower than four years ago, when most expats rallied behind Obama after two terms of George W. Bush, whom many thought had tarnished the U.S. image abroad.
Both the Republicans and Democrats have courted the expat vote since 1988, when absentee ballots reversed the outcome of a Senate race in Florida, allowing Republican Connie Mack to pip Democrat Buddy MacKay, who had led when polling stations closed.
Absentee ballots also made the difference in another Senate race in 2008. Democrat Al Franken came from 215 votes behind to win with the help of absentee votes.
The tightness of the presidential race, with a Reuters/Ipsos tracking poll showing a dead heat, has made the expat vote arguably more important than ever. Both Republicans Abroad and Democrats Abroad organisations have gone all out to get Americans registered and voting in their home states. Continued...