US President Barack Obama (R) hugs singer Bruce Springsteen as he is introduced before he speaks at an event in Madison, Wisconsin on his final day of campaigning before the presidential election. REUTERS/Larry Downing
President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney
have made their final urgent pleas to voters in a closing
sprint through vital battleground states that will determine
who wins their agonizingly close race for the White House.
Both candidates sought to whip up a strong turnout from their
supporters and to sway independent voters to their side in
the last hours of a race that polls showed was deadlocked
nationally. Obama had a slight lead in the eight or nine
battleground states that will tell the tale on Election Day
The Democratic incumbent, appearing in Madison, Wisconsin,
drew a large crowd that was warmed up by Bruce Springsteen.
"Wisconsin, tomorrow you have a choice to make," he said. "It
is a choice between two different visions for America."
On the defensive throughout the year for presiding over
persistently high unemployment, Obama said the choice was
between the Republicans' "top-down policies that crashed our
economy" and his own approach to moving the country forward.
Romney was in Lynchburg, Virginia, telling voters: "One final
push is going to get us there.
"We're only one day away from a fresh start, one day away
from the start of a new beginning," he said.
Obama was making stops in three swing states and Romney was
hitting four. Their goal was to piece together the 270
Electoral College votes needed for victory in the
state-by-state battle for the presidency.
All eyes were on the Midwestern state of Ohio, whose 18
electoral votes could be decisive. After voting early in his
home state of Massachusetts, Romney was considering a
last-second visit to Ohio on Tuesday to try to drive turnout,
The election's outcome will impact a variety of domestic and
foreign policy issues, from the looming "fiscal cliff" of
spending cuts and tax increases that could kick in at the end
of the year to questions about how to handle illegal
immigration or Iran's nuclear ambitions.
The balance of power in Congress also will be at stake on
Tuesday, with Obama's Democrats now expected to narrowly hold
their Senate majority and Romney's Republicans favored to
retain control of the House of Representatives.
In a race where the two candidates and their party allies
raised a combined $2 billion, the most in U.S. history, both
sides have pounded the heavily contested battleground states
with an unprecedented barrage of ads.
The close margins in state and national polls suggested the
possibility of a cliffhanger that could be decided by which
side has the best turnout operation and gets its voters to
In the final days, both Obama and Romney focused on firing up
core supporters and wooing the last few undecided voters in
Romney reached out to dissatisfied Obama supporters from
2008, calling himself the candidate of change and ridiculing
Obama's failure to live up to his campaign promises. "He
promised to do so very much but frankly he fell so very
short," Romney said at a rally in Cleveland on Sunday.
Obama, citing improving economic reports on the pace of
hiring, argued in the final stretch that he has made progress
in turning around the economy but needed a second White House
term to finish the job. "This is a choice between two
different versions of America," Obama said in Cincinnati.
FINAL SWING-STATE BLITZES
Obama will close his campaign on Monday with a final blitz
across Wisconsin, Ohio and Iowa - three Midwestern states
that, barring surprises elsewhere, would be enough to get him
more than the 270 electoral votes needed for victory.
Polls show Obama has slim advantages in all three. His final
stop on Monday night will be in Iowa, the state that
propelled him to the White House in 2008 with a victory in
its first-in-the nation caucus.
Romney will visit his must-win states of Florida and Virginia
- where polls show he is slightly ahead or tied - along with
Ohio before concluding in New Hampshire, where he officially
started his presidential run last year.
The only state scheduled to get a visit on Monday from both
candidates is Ohio, the most critical of the remaining
battlegrounds - particularly for Romney. He has few paths to
victory if he cannot win in Ohio, where Obama has kept a
small but steady lead in polls for months.
One in every eight jobs in Ohio is tied to car manufacturing
and Obama has been buoyed in the state by his support for a
federal bailout of the auto industry. Ohio also has a strong
state economy with an unemployment rate lower than the 7.9
percent national rate.
That has undercut Romney's frequent criticism of Obama's
economic leadership, which has focused on the persistently
high jobless rate and what Romney calls Obama's big-spending
efforts to expand government power.
Romney, who would be the first Mormon president, has centered
his campaign pitch on his own experience as a business leader
at a private equity fund and said it made him uniquely suited
to create jobs.
Obama's campaign fired back with ads criticizing Romney's
experience and portraying the multimillionaire as out of
touch with everyday Americans.
Obama and allies said Romney's firm, Bain Capital, plundered
companies and eliminated jobs to maximize profits. They also
made an issue of Romney's refusal to release more than two
years of personal tax returns.