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Obama draws huge crowds

As Barack Obama spoke to massive crowds John McCain assured supporters the race is tightening ahead of the final day of campaigning.

Barack Obama greets supporters at a campaign rally in Cincinnati, Ohio, on Nov 2 2008.
Barack Obama greets supporters at a campaign rally in Cincinnati, Ohio, on Nov 2 2008.

WASHINGTON // Barack Obama drew massive crowds to some of his final campaign rallies as Americans appeared likely to cap the longest, most expensive White House campaign ever by electing the Democrat as the first black US president tomorrow. Republican John McCain, looking to score the United States' biggest political upset in 60 years, assured supporters yesterday that the race is tightening. "I've been in a lot of campaigns. I know the momentum is there," Mr McCain said at a rally in Pennsylvania, traditionally a Democratic-leaning state that he must wrest from Mr Obama. But polls show Mr Obama leading in Pennsylvania and other key states. Nationally, several major polls show Mr Obama with a 7-8 percentage point advantage. With the economy in turmoil and the approval levels of George W Bush, a Republican, at near-record lows, Democrats have high hopes not only of capturing the White House, but also expanding their majorities in both chambers of Congress. A victory would mark a stunning rise for the 47-year-old Mr Obama, who was little known nationally before being elected as a senator from Illinois four years ago. He began running for president just two years later. Mr Obama exuded confidence yesterday. "The last couple of days, I've been just feeling good," he told 80,000 gathered to hear him - and singer Bruce Springsteen - in Cleveland, in the pivotal state of Ohio. "The crowds seem to grow and everybody's got a smile on their face. You start thinking that maybe we might be able to win an election on November 4." An earlier rally in Columbus, Ohio, drew an estimated 60,000 people. Mr Obama has capitalised on anti-Republican sentiment, linking Mr McCain to the unpopular Mr Bush. Mr McCain's campaign has tried to cast Mr Obama as too inexperienced, too liberal and too tainted by associations with unsavoury characters. The electoral map clearly favours Mr Obama. To be elected, a candidate must win at least 270 of the 538 electoral votes distributed to states roughly in proportion to their population. In most cases, the candidate who wins a plurality of votes in a state wins all of that state's electoral votes. Mr Obama is favoured to win all the states Democrats captured in 2004, when Mr Bush defeated Sen John Kerry. That would give him 251 votes. He is leading or tied in several states won by Mr Bush, giving him several possibilities for reaching the 270 votes - winning a big Bush state like Ohio or Florida, or a combination of smaller ones. Mr Obama's campaign manager David Plouffe said yesterday that the Democrat has expanded the electoral map by aggressively campaigning in traditional Republican states like Virginia, Colorado and Nevada. "We did not want to wake up on the morning of Nov 4 waiting for one state. We wanted a lot of different ways to win this election," Mr Plouffe said on Fox television. Mr McCain has to hold on to as many Bush states as possible and try to capture Pennsylvania. A defeat there, or a loss in Ohio, Florida or Virginia, would make it extremely unlikely he could collect the 270 votes. *AP