U.S. President Barack Obama and Republican
challenger Mitt Romney made one final electoral push Monday as voters
at last are set to have their say in one of the closest US elections
in recent history.
With less than 24 hours before polls open, the candidates had little time to make their appeals to voters, urging supporters to cast their ballots Tuesday and seeking out the last undecided voters.
The candidates campaigned until late into the night Sunday and were back at it again Monday morning with stops in the swing states likely to determine the outcome. Obama will wrap up the day in Iowa and Romney in New Hampshire before both head to their homes to wait out results.
The presidency could easily fall to either man as Obama, 51, a Democrat, and Romney, 65, are separated in national polls by a fraction of a percentage point. An average of opinion polls by website Real Clear Politics showed Obama ahead by just 0.1 percentage points nationally on Monday.
Supporters of both candidates expressed confidence their side would emerge victorious. Voters in key swing states faced a slew of last-minute telephone calls asking for their support and television ads painting each candidate as the better choice.
"It's going to be close. But I do think that the momentum is on our side, and it's because these economic issues ultimately drive the election here in Ohio," Senator Rob Portman, a Republican campaigning for Romney in the battleground of Ohio, told broadcaster CNBC Monday.
Obama is seeking re-election with unemployment at 7.9 per cent. No president since World War II has won a second term with unemployment above 7.2 per cent. Growth for 2012 is still below 2 per cent, but Obama has sought to remind voters of the deep economic crisis in which he was elected four years ago.
An estimated 27 million people have already cast ballots in early voting. More than 130 million Americans voted in the 2008 presidential elections.
Voters will also decide all 435 seats in the House of Representatives, expected to remain majority Republican, and one-third of the 100-member Senate, expected to keep a narrow Democratic majority.
The election takes place as the north-east US recovers from Hurricane Sandy, which destroyed thousands of homes, killed more than 100 people in the US alone and shut down power, public transport and fuel delivery for millions of people, especially in hard-hit New Jersey and New York.
Obama has maintained a slight advantage in the battleground states. The presidency is not decided by the national popular vote, but rather by a system of electoral votes assigned to each state depending on their population-based representation in Congress. To capture the White House, a candidate needs 270 votes, which nearly every state awards on a winner-take-all basis.
Obama looks to have a firm hold of 243 votes in heavily Democratic states, while Romney can claim 206, putting more pressure on him to win more of the swing states.
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