US candidates visit swing states in final push for votes
Republican Mitt Romney and president Barack Obama hopscotched across the country today in a final push to squeeze out victory from the handful of states that will decide Tuesday's US presidential election.
"Three more days! Three more days!" chanted a crowd of roughly 2,000 at an early-morning rally in New Hampshire, where Mr Romney urged supporters to try to sway neighbors who have Mr Obama signs in their yards to change their minds.
In an article in The Wall Street Journal, Mr Romney argued that he would do a better job than Mr Obama at overcoming partisan divisions in Washington.
"After four years of disappointments, fixing America's problems requires a new direction," he wrote.
Mr Obama, who has spent much of the week overseeing efforts to help northeastern coastal states recover from devastating storm Sandy, received a briefing at the federal government's disaster-relief headquarters in Washington before returning to the campaign trail.
"There's nothing more important than getting this right," Mr Obama said of the disaster relief before flying to Ohio for a campaign rally.
The storm has afforded the Democrat an opportunity to rise above the fray of campaigning.
But it has also raised the stakes for him to show his administration can respond quickly and effectively in a crisis, as residents of New York and New Jersey vent frustration at power outages and petrol shortages.
"He's focused on it every moment he's not speaking on the stage," Mr Obama campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters aboard Air Force One.
The race for the White House remains effectively tied at a national level. A Reuters/Ipsos daily tracking poll released on Saturday showed Mr Obama leading Mr Romney by a statistically meaningless margin of one percentage point, 47 per cent to 46 per cent.
Neither candidate has held a clear lead since early October. But in the nine or so states that remain truly competitive, Mr Obama holds a slight edge.
The narrow scope of the race has been evident for months but it was shown vividly today, when Mr Obama and Mr Romney were scheduled to hold rallies six hours apart in the Iowa river city of Dubuque.
Mr Romney was also scheduled to campaign in Colorado before returning to Des Moines. Mr Obama planned to visit Wisconsin and Virginia.
Mr Romney has tried to expand the battlefield over the past week to states that had been considered beyond his reach.
His vice presidential running mate Paul Ryan was headed to Pennsylvania later in the day, and Mr Romney himself is due to speak there tomorow.
Mr Obama officials say Mr Romney is campaigning there out of desperation because he has been unable to establish a clear lead in states like Ohio that are crucial to his prospects.
A variety of state polls show Mr Obama holds a narrow advantage in Ohio, Iowa, Nevada and Wisconsin, which would allow him to eke out a narrow victory on Tuesday, barring any surprises elsewhere.
Nevertheless, the Obama campaign is dispatching Vice President Joe Biden's wife, Jill Biden, to Pennsylvania and former president Bill Clinton to Minnesota.
Mr Romney is within striking distance in four other battleground states - Florida, Virginia, Colorado and New Hampshire, and he appears to hold a clear advantage in North Carolina.
For nearly 26 million Americans, the election is already over as early voting has been underway for several weeks. Both campaigns have aimed to lock down as many votes as possible ahead of time to leave less to chance on election day.
In Marietta, Ohio, Mr Ryan said he and Romney would fulfill the promise that many voters saw in Mr Obama when he was first elected in 2008, as he criticised the president for telling supporters that "voting is the best revenge." "We don't believe in revenge. We believe in change and hope, we actually do," Mr Ryan told a crowd of 1,500.
Ms Psaki said the president was simply telling voters who oppose Romney's policies that they can determine whether those policies will take effect.
"If you think it's a bad deal for the middle class, then you have power and you can go to the voting booths," Ms Psaki said.