US President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney were due to make a frenetic dash to a series of crucial swing states yesterday, delivering their final arguments to voters on the last day of an extraordinarily close race for the White House.
National polls show Obama and Romney are essentially deadlocked ahead of today’s election, although Obama has a slight advantage in the eight or nine battleground states that will decide the winner.
Obama planned to visit three of those swing states yesterday and Romney was to travel to four to plead for support in a fierce White House campaign that focused primarily on the lagging economy, but at times turned intensely personal.
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 the thorny challenge of Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
The balance of power in Congress also will be at stake, 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 US$2 billion 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 the polls.
Obama and Romney have focused on firing up core supporters and wooing the last few undecided voters in battleground states.
Romney reached out to dissatisfied Obama supporters, 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, Ohio, 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, Ohio.
Obama was to close his campaign yesterday with a blitz across Wisconsin, Ohio and Iowa — three 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 leads in all three. His final stop last night was to be Iowa, the state that propelled him on the path to the White House in 2008 with a victory in its first-in-the nation caucus.
Romney was to visit his must-win states of Florida and Virginia along with Ohio before concluding in New Hampshire.
The only state scheduled to get a last-day visit from both candidates was Ohio, the most critical of the remaining battlegrounds — particularly for Romney.
The former Massachusetts governor has few paths to victory if he cannot win in Ohio, where Obama has kept a small, but steady lead in polls for months.