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, Fla., 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, Wisc., with musician Bruce Springsteen that drew 18,000 people.
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% to 45% in an Oct. 31- Nov. 3 national poll conducted by the Pew Research Center, a survey that showed the candidates tied at 47% 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% to 47% 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% to 48%, 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% to 46%.
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.
The University of Cincinnati’s final Ohio Poll had Obama ahead, 50% to 48.5%, 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, Pa. “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% to 46%, 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 (Nov. 5) 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% – 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.
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% of the total 2008 vote has been cast, registered Democrats have completed 43.9% of ballots, Republicans 37% and independents 19.1%, state data show.