President Barack Obama and Republican rival Mitt Romney engaged in a frenzied cross-country blitz of the remaining battleground states yesterday, with both sides predicting victory in a race that remains too close to call.
National opinion polls showed a race for the popular vote in Tuesday’s election so close that only a statistically insignificant point or two separated the rivals.
The final national NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, conducted from November 1-3, showed Mr Obama getting the support of 48 per cent of likely voters, while Mr Romney received 47 per cent. The poll had a margin of error of 2.55 percentage points. More than 27 million Americans have already voted in 34 states and Washington, DC.
A majority of polls in the battleground states – especially in the Midwestern states of Iowa, Wisconsin and Ohio – showed Mr Obama with a slight advantage, giving him an easier path to the 270 electoral votes needed for victory.
Under the US system, the winner is not determined by the nationwide popular vote but in state-by-state contests, making “battleground” states that are neither consistently Republican nor Democratic extremely important in such a tight race.
Mr Obama’s campaign was mobilising a huge get-out-the-vote effort aimed at carrying the Democrat to victory. He had a full schedule yesterday, with campaign stops in New Hampshire, Florida, Ohio and Colorado.
Mr Romney’s campaign was projecting momentum and banking on late-breaking voters to propel him to victory. The Republican cut away briefly yesterday from the nine or so competitive states that have dominated the candidates’ travel itineraries to make a late play for votes in Pennsylvania, a Democratic-leaning state. Mr Romney will also campaign in Iowa, Ohio and Virginia.
He has shifted sharply in recent weeks to appeal to the political centre and highlights what he says was his bipartisan record as governor of Democratic-leaning Massachusetts. Romney, who during the Republican primary campaign once described himself as “severely conservative”, is aggressively courting the narrow slice of undecided voters – largely women and moderates – who have yet to settle on a candidate.
“I won’t just represent one party, I’ll represent one nation,” the presidential candidate declared in his revised campaign speech that he delivered at stops from New Hampshire to Colorado.
Mr Obama has been imploring crowds at his rallies – and the wider electorate – to let him finish what he started. The nation has been bruised by recession and war, he contends, but remains resilient and is coming back. At stake, he says, is a fight for the middle class.
“The folks at the very top in this country, they don’t need another champion in Washington. They’ve got lobbyists... They’ve always got a seat at the table,” Mr Obama said in Ohio, a state at the heart of his re-election strategy.
“But people who need a champion are the Americans whose letters I read every night – the men and women I meet on the campaign trail every day.”
Mr Obama and former President Bill Clinton drew 24,000 people to an outdoor rally in Bristow, Virginia, on a cold Saturday night.
The President said the election was in the voters’ hands. “The power is not with us anymore,” he said. “It’s all up to you.”
Mr Romney has also attracted large crowds. His rally in Ohio on Friday drew more than 20,000 people.