President Barack Obama beseeched core supporters and wayward backers to go to the polls, while Republican challenger Mitt Romney reached for an upset victory powered by anti-incumbent fervor on the final full day of a race that polls suggest has tilted slightly in the president’s favor.
The candidates are chasing each other through eight of the most competitive states, as national and state-level data showed Obama with a slim yet potentially decisive edge in the quest for the 270 Electoral College votes needed to win the White House.
“We have one job left,” Romney told more than 1,000 voters chanting “one day more” at the airport in Sanford, Florida, as he began his final campaign sprint today. “We need every vote.”
“Let’s go vote,” Obama told more than 15,000 supporters in Columbus, Ohio. “It’s a choice between two visions of America.”
Romney is adding visits to Cleveland, Ohio, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, an aide said on condition of anonymity, as part of his campaign’s last-minute bid to cobble together the needed electoral votes.
The Romney and Obama camps long have seen Ohio, with 18 electoral votes, as a potential linchpin in the election’s outcome. Pennsylvania, with 20 electoral votes, became a target for Romney as recent polls showed Obama’s advantage there narrowing.
Romney is spending today storming through campaign rallies. His last event is planned for 11 p.m. in New Hampshire with rock star Kid Rock.
Obama began his final day of campaigning at an outdoor rally in Madison, Wisconsin, with musician Bruce Springsteen that drew 18,000 people.
“After all that we’ve been through together, we can’t give up now,” Obama told the crowd.
Springsteen, a guitar slung over his shoulder on stage, said that “for the last 30 years I’ve been writing in my music about the distance between the American dream and the American reality.” Tomorrow’s vote “is the one undeniable way we get to determine the distance in that equation,” he said. Obama hugged him, calling him an “American treasure.”
Presenting himself as the candidate of “real change,” Obama reprised his philosophy as using government to equalize Americans’ prospects of success and cited accomplishments including the bailout of the auto industry, health-care expansion, more regulation of Wall Street, the death of Osama bin Laden and a shift toward clean energy.
Meanwhile, Democrats appealed to a federal court in Ohio for clarification on last-minute rules imposed by the Republican secretary of state on voters who cast provisional ballots, generally used by those whose eligibility is in question, and in Florida, where long lines risk turning voters away. The action leaves open the possibility of further disputes that could last through Election Day. Republicans say they are concerned with preventing voter fraud while Democrats argue they are working to protect voting rights.
Obama led Romney 48 percent to 45 percent in an Oct. 31-Nov. 3 national poll conducted by the Pew Research Center, a survey that showed the candidates tied at 47 percent a week ago. In a departure from 10 days of deadlock, the final tracking poll by ABC News and the Washington Post had Obama taking a lead of 50 percent to 47 percent in a survey of 2,345 likely voters conducted Nov. 1-4. The margin of error was plus or minus 2.5 percentage points.
The Gallup daily tracking poll of likely voters released today showed Obama making up ground against Romney. In the survey conducted Nov. 1-4, Romney led Obama, 49 percent to 48 percent, a virtual tie given the poll’s margin of error of plus or minus two percentage points. Before Gallup suspended its tracking poll early last week because of Atlantic superstorm Sandy, it had Romney ahead, 51 percent to 46 percent.
In weekend polls in Ohio and Iowa, two of the most hard-fought states, the president held a slight advantage, suggesting the race will turn on which candidate does the better job of turning out his supporters.
“Don’t wait” to vote, Obama urged a mostly black crowd of 13,500 voters packed into Cincinnati’s Fifth Third Arena last night. “Who do you trust?” the president asked the crowd, which shouted back “You!” Saying he knows what “real change” is, Obama added: “I delivered it; I’ve got the scars to prove it.”
The University of Cincinnati’s final Ohio Poll had Obama ahead, 50 percent to 48.5 percent, including allocating undecided voters. The survey of 901 likely voters was taken Oct. 31-Nov. 4 and had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.3 percentage points.
Romney, pressing to expand his potential routes to victory, made his first appearance in more than a month yesterday in Pennsylvania.
“Your voices are being heard all over the nation,” Romney told more than 20,000 people gathered at a farm in Morrisville, Pennsylvania. “The people of America understand that we’re taking back the White House, because we’re going to win Pennsylvania.”
A Muhlenberg College/Morning Call poll conducted Nov. 1-3 found Obama leading Romney, 49 percent to 46 percent, within the margin of error of plus-or-minus five percentage points. That’s a smaller edge than the five-percentage-point advantage the president held late last month.
Romney’s performance in the first presidential debate on Oct. 3 rendered the state a “great opportunity” for him, spokesman Kevin Madden said. David Plouffe, a senior adviser to Obama’s re-election effort, called the Republican’s Pennsylvania visit a “desperate ploy.”
Former President Bill Clinton campaigned today in Pennsylvania on Obama’s behalf.
Elsewhere, the movement in public sentiment signaled gains for Obama.
In Virginia, a NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist College poll released today showed Obama with 48 percent and Romney with 47 percent -- a reversal of the Republican’s one-point advantage in the survey released Oct. 11 and well within the poll’s margin of error of plus or minus 2.9 percentage points. The telephone survey of 1,165 likely voters was conducted Nov. 1-2.
In Iowa, a Des Moines Register poll released the same day found Obama leading Romney, 47 percent to 42 percent, among likely voters.
While top strategists for both campaigns predicted victory, Romney betrayed slightly less conviction, telling voters in Cleveland yesterday that an Obama win was “possible -- but not likely.”
National polls indicated a slight enthusiasm advantage among likely voters for the president, with ABC saying 69 percent of likely Obama voters were very enthusiastic, compared with 62 percent of Romney’s, and Pew saying 39 percent of likely Obama voters support him strongly, compared with 33 percent of Romney’s.
The Republican’s late Pennsylvania push came as early-voting returns showed the former Massachusetts governor will start tomorrow lagging in several of the most competitive states. Obama’s advantage is especially strong in Nevada and Iowa, while Romney has maintained an edge in Colorado.
Both campaigns put their spin on the numbers, with Obama’s camp arguing that they have built insurmountable leads and Romney’s countering that they are positioned to obliterate any advantage on Election Day.
“For Governor Romney to win states like Ohio, Iowa, Nevada and North Carolina, he’s going to have to carry Election Day by a huge margin,” Plouffe said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” program yesterday.
Rich Beeson, Romney’s political director, said on “Fox News Sunday” that his team has done a better job at getting “low-propensity voters” -- those who only cast ballots sporadically and typically need more prodding to do so -- to the polls in advance. “Republicans, for whatever reason, tend to vote -- like to vote on Election Day,” he said.
In Nevada, where the equivalent of 72 percent of the total 2008 vote has been cast, registered Democrats have completed 43.9 percent of ballots, Republicans 37 percent and independents 19.1 percent, state data show. In a sign that both sides believe the state is trending toward Obama, neither he nor Romney visited it during the final weekend of campaigning.
In Iowa, more than 613,000 people had cast ballots through Nov. 2, according to the secretary of state’s office, representing 39.8 percent of the total vote, if as many people participate as did in 2008. Registered Democrats have cast 42.6 percent of the ballots, compared with 32.3 percent by Republicans and 25 percent by independents.
Republicans have a slim edge in Colorado’s early voting, according to the secretary of state’s office. Of the vote turned in through Nov. 3, 36.9 percent is from registered Republicans, while Democrats represent 34.6 percent and independents 27.4 percent. About 68 percent of the total 2008 vote there has already been cast.
More than 4.4 million Floridians cast early and absentee ballots as of Nov. 3, according to the Florida State Department. Democratic voters cast 43 percent, while Republicans cast 39 percent.
Nationally, almost 30 million people have cast ballots, according to the United States Elections Project at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. More than a third of the total electorate is expected to vote early.
In Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin, voters don’t register by party, so it’s less clear which party has the early-vote edge. Still, Obama’s campaign is buoyed by evidence that early turnout is strong in Ohio counties that backed him in 2008.
Franklin and Cuyahoga counties -- the most populous in the state -- had through yesterday achieved 88 percent of the early vote they recorded four years ago when Obama won, according to data from the elections project and the county elections boards. Early voting will continue through today.
At the same time, some smaller Republican-leaning counties carried by Obama’s 2008 rival, Arizona Senator John McCain -- including Warren in the southwest of the state and Washington in the southeast -- have already outpaced their early voting total of four years ago.
Both candidates were trying to appeal to the vast majority of voters who have not yet cast a ballot.
“You reach across the street to your neighbor with a yard sign, and I’ll reach across the aisle to the people from the other party,” Romney promised several thousand voters in Des Moines.
Obama stumped with Clinton over the weekend, working to tie his record and philosophy to those of the former president and rekindle the bipartisan backing Clinton enjoyed. The Obama campaign even blared Clinton’s one-time political anthem at rallies -- Fleetwood Mac’s “Don’t Stop.”
“By the end of President Clinton’s second term, America created 23 million new jobs, and incomes were up and poverty was down, and the deficit had become the biggest surplus in history,” Obama said in Concord, New Hampshire. “We know our ideas work.”