x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Frantic schedules mark final day of presidential race

US election: Barack Obama, the US president, and challenger Mitt Romney were storming through a final exhaustive campaign push yesterday in pursuit of every possible vote.

SANFORD, FlORIDA // During the last hours of their stubbornly close race, Barack Obama, the US president, and challenger Mitt Romney were storming through a final exhaustive campaign push yesterday in pursuit of every possible vote.

Both candidates say the winner will be determined by the campaign that can get the most supporters to the polls today.

"This is going to be a turnout election," Mr Obama said yesterday, as he pleaded with people to get to the polls.

"We have one job left, and that's getting people out to vote," said Mr Romney to supporters at the airport in Sanford, Florida. "One more day," the crowd chanted.

With national polls showing a neck-and-neck race, the final day's schedule showed where the two campaigns believe the race will be decided. Mr Romney was in Florida, Virginia, and New Hampshire, while Mr Obama sought to protect Wisconsin from an eleventh-hour challenge from the Republicans, before heading to Iowa.

And in an indication of just how all-important Ohio was, once again, to the future occupancy of the White House, both candidates planned to be on the ground in Columbus last night for duelling rallies 11 kilometres apart.

Whoever wins Ohio has a simpler path to amass the 270 electoral votes needed to claim the presidency. With Mr Obama showing a lead in most polls of the state's likely voters, Mr Romney voiced guarded optimism on Sunday in Cleveland, saying Mr Obama's re-election was "possible, but not likely".

Mr Obama also raised the possibility of defeat as he pleaded with listeners of The Rickey Smiley Morning Show to get to the polls. "If we don't turn out the vote, we could lose a lot of the gains we've already made."

It was one of two of the president's radio interviews airing yesterday aimed at turning out minority voters, the other with a Spanish-language station in Ohio. The president is relying on black and Hispanic voters to help offset Mr Romney's lead with white men in particular, but the risk for him is that some of those key supporters are not as motivated to vote as they were in 2008.

"Four years ago, we had incredible turnout and I know people were excited and energised about the prospect of making history," Mr Obama said. "We have to preserve the gains we've made and keep moving forward."

Both candidates were to benefit from some star power yesterday. The rock legend Bruce Springsteen was to accompany Mr Obama at all three campaign rallies, and the rapper Jay-Z was set to join him in Columbus.

Mr Romney planned a final rally in the last hour of election eve in New Hampshire with Kid Rock, while the country rock group The Marshall Tucker Band was joining him in Columbus.

A final national poll by NBC and The Wall Street Journal showed Mr Obama with the support of 48 per cent of likely voters, with Mr Romney receiving 47 per cent. A Washington Post-ABC News tracking poll had Mr Obama at 49 and Mr Romney at 48.

About 30 million people have already voted across 34 states and Washington DC, either by mail or in person, although none will be counted until today. More than four million of the ballots were cast in Florida, where Democrats filed a lawsuit demanding an extension of available time. A judge granted their request in one county where an early voting site was shut down for several hours on Saturday because of a bomb scare.