Presidential campaigns enter final day with Obama, Romney neck and neck

Presidential campaigns enter final day with Obama, Romney neck and neck

Battleground state of Ohio in sharp focus in advance of Tuesday's election

Illustrative: Voters stand in line outside the Hamilton County Board of Elections for early voting, in Cincinnati, Ohio, October 22, 2012. (AP/Al Behrman)
Illustrative: Voters stand in line outside the Hamilton County Board of Elections for early voting, in Cincinnati, Ohio, October 22, 2012. (AP/Al Behrman)

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney stormed into the final day of campaigning before Election Day, once again visiting the toughest battleground state of all — Ohio. The industrial Midwestern state has picked the winner of the last 12 elections.

Nationwide polls show the two locked in one of the closest presidential races in recent US history. But a majority of polls in the battleground states — especially in Ohio and other Midwestern states of Iowa and Wisconsin— show Obama with a slight advantage. That gives him an easier path to the 270 electoral votes needed for victory. No Republican has won the White House without carrying Ohio, and it was possible that Romney would make a last-minute visit to the state on Election Day.

Under the US system, the winner is not determined by the nationwide popular vote but in state-by-state contests, making nine “battleground” states that don’t consistently vote Republican nor Democratic extremely important in such a tight race. Winning a state gives Romney or Obama that state’s electoral votes, which are apportioned to states based on a mix of population and representation in Congress.

This year’s tight race raises the possibility of a replay of the chaotic 2000 election, when Republican George W. Bush won the presidency with an electoral vote majority while Democrat Al Gore had a narrow lead in the nationwide popular vote.

Both Obama and Romney say this year’s winner will be determined by which of their campaigns can get the most supporters to the polls. “This is going to be a turnout election,” the president declared in an interview airing Monday. Obama needs the support of blacks and Hispanics to counter Romney’s support among while men, but his campaign knows that the feeling of making history by electing America’s first black president that fired up the 2008 campaign has cooled.

Rock legend Bruce Springsteen and rapper Jay-Z were joining Obama for Ohio events on Monday.

“We have one job left,” and that’s getting people out to vote, Romney told a Florida crowd Monday morning. The crowd chanted, “One more day!”

Romney, who described himself as “severely conservative” during the Republican primary campaign, has shifted sharply in recent weeks to appeal to the political center and highlights what he says was his bipartisan record as governor of Democratic-leaning Massachusetts. He continues to insist that his experience as a businessman would help fix the still-weak US economy — a top issue with voters.

Obama has come back from a weak performance in his first of three debates with Romney last month and hammered at Romney’s shifting positions.

The final national NBC/Wall Street Journal Poll, released on Sunday, showed Obama with the support of 48 percent of likely voters, with Romney receiving 47 percent. The poll had a margin of error of 2.55 percentage points.

The final national poll from the Pew Research Center found Obama with a three-point edge over Romney, 48 percent to 45 percent among likely voters, an improved showing that indicates the president may have benefited from his handling of the response to last week’s Superstorm Sandy. Obama suspended three full days of campaigning to deal with the East Coast disaster. The Pew poll had a margin of error of 2.2 percentage points.

If the election were held now, an Associated Press analysis found that Obama would be all but assured of 249 electoral votes by carrying 20 states that are solidly Democratic or leaning his way and the District of Columbia. Romney would lay claim to 206, from probable victories in 24 states that are strong Republican ground or tilt toward the Republicans.

Up for grabs are 83 electoral votes spread across Colorado, Florida, Ohio, New Hampshire, Virginia and Wisconsin. Of those, Republicans and Democrats alike say Obama seems in slightly better shape than Romney in Ohio and Wisconsin, while Romney appears to be performing slightly better than Obama or has pulled even in Virginia and Florida.

With Obama sustaining his lead in Ohio, Romney has made a surprise, last-minute move in neighboring Pennsylvania. The state has voted Democratic in the last five presidential elections and has long been counted in the Obama column. Romney made his first visit of the fall campaign on Sunday.

The theme from the movie “Rocky” blared from the loudspeakers as he stepped to the podium in a Philadelphia suburb. “The people of America understand we’re taking back the White House because we’re going to win Pennsylvania,” Romney told a large crowd on a cold night.

Obama’s campaign said Romney’s move in Pennsylvania showed the Republican’s desperation over his diminished chances in Ohio. And the Obama campaign announced that former President Bill Clinton — Obama’s most powerful surrogate — would make four campaign stops in Pennsylvania on Monday.

About 30 million people have already cast ballots in 34 states and the District of Columbia, although none will be counted until Election Day on Tuesday.

Storm-hit New York and New Jersey hurried to make voting accessible in a region where more than 1 million remain without power. The states, however, are considered by both campaigns to be heavily for Obama.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

read more: