JULIE PACE, KASIE HUNT
COLUMBUS, Ohio — The White House the prize, President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney raced through a final full day of campaigning on Monday through Ohio and other battleground states holding the keys to victory in a tight race. Both promised brighter days ahead for a nation still struggling with a sluggish economy and high joblessness.
“Our work is not done yet,” Obama told a cheering crowd of nearly 20,000 in chilly Madison, Wis., imploring his audience to give him another four years.
Romney projected optimism as he neared the end of his six-year quest for the presidency. “If you believe we can do better. If you believe America should be on a better course. If you’re tired of being tired ... then I ask you to vote for real change,” he said in a Virginia suburb of the nation’s capital. With many of the late polls in key states tilting slightly against him, he decided to campaign on Election Day in Ohio and Pennsylvania, where he and Republicans made a big, late push.
In state-by-state surveys, it appeared Obama held small advantages in Nevada, Ohio, Iowa and Wisconsin — enough to deliver a second term if they endured, but not so significant that they could withstand an Election Day surge by Romney supporters. Both men appealed to an ever smaller universe of undecided voters.
More than 30 million absentee or early ballots have been cast, including in excess of 3 million in Florida. The state also had a legal controversy, in the form of a Democratic lawsuit seeking an extension of time for pre-Election Day voting.
In his longest campaign day, Romney raced from Florida to a pair of speeches in Virginia to Ohio and then an election eve rally in New Hampshire. He planned to be in the Pittsburgh area today.
Obama selected Wisconsin, Ohio and Iowa for his final campaign day, an itinerary that reflected his campaign’s decision to try and erect a Midwestern firewall against Romney’s challenge.
Vice President Joe Biden and Republican running mate Paul Ryan of Wisconsin went through their final campaign paces, as well.
In Sterling, Va., not far from Washington, the vice president accused Republicans of running away from their record, but added, “a leopard can’t change his spots.”
Ryan started out in Reno, Nev., where he said the president has come up short in his promises to change Washington and repair the economy.
“This may be the best that Barack Obama can offer, but this is not the best America can,” he said, before flying off to Colorado and Ohio. Then it was home to Wisconsin, where he is on the ballot for re-election to Congress in case Republicans were unsuccessful in the presidential campaign.
Conscientious to the end, supporters kept knocking on doors in search of a possibly decisive vote.