Obama set to vote early in hometown


Republican challenger Mitt Romney held a 1 percentage point lead over President Barack Obama in today's Reuters/Ipsos daily tracking poll in a presidential race that is effectively a dead heat less than two weeks before Americans vote.

In a repeat of yesterday's results, Mr Romney led the president among likely voters by 47 per cent to 46 per cent, a statistically insignificant margin, in the four-day online tracking poll.

With both candidates barnstorming the key battleground states of Ohio, Florida, and Virginia today, 13 per cent of registered voters and 30 per cent of independents said their vote remains up for grabs in the November 6th election.

Later today, Mr Obama is flying to his hometown, Chicago, where he will become the first president to cast an early-vote ballot.

Earlier today, former US secretary of state Colin Powell today endorsed Barack Obama's bid for re-election, citing the Democratic president's efforts to wind down the war in Afghanistan and tackle terrorism as well as an improving US economy.

"I think we ought to keep on the track that we are on," the Republican, who also backed Obama in 2008, told CBS This Morning. He added, "I voted for him in 2008 and I plan to stick with him in 2012."

Mr Powell, who served in three Republican administrations, credited Mr Obama with stabilising the economy as it teetered on the brink of a depression. "We've come out of the dive and we're starting to gain altitude," Powell said. "There are lots of problems still out there," he said. "But I see that we are starting to rise up."

On national security, Mr Obama's actions "protecting us from terrorism have been very, very solid," Mr Powell said.

The president and Bill Clinton will campaign together next week in three of the most competitive battleground states.

Mr Obama and the former president will hold rallies on Monday in Florida, Ohio and Virginia. Their appearances will kick off the final full week of campaigning before Election Day.

While Mr Clinton has been an active supporter of the president, Mr Obama’s campaign is ramping up his role in the election’s final days.

Mr Clinton is featured in a new campaign advertisement out this week, where he argues that Mr Obama’s “got it right” with his economic agenda.

Monday’s stops will be the first joint rallies the two presidents have held together during the 2012 campaign.

Last night, Mr Obama appeared with late-night TV talk show host Jay Leno adding some serious comments to an interview full of jokes about marriage, Halloween and other topics.

Addressing a Republican Senate candidate's assertion that pregnancies resulting from rape are intended by God, Mr Obama said: "I don't know how these guys come up with these ideas. Let me make a very simple proposition: rape is rape. It is a crime."

"This is exactly why you don't want a bunch of politicians, mostly male, making decisions about women's healthcare," he told NBC's The Tonight Show.

Indiana Republican Senate candidate Richard Mourdock's comments that pregnancies caused by rape are "something God intended to happen" echoed across the US media and sent ripples through political circles ahead of the November 6th election.

The Obama campaign, which enjoys leads among women voters in many election battleground states, sought swiftly to connect Mr Mourdock with Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

This summer Mr Romney had to distance himself from remarks by another Republican Senate candidate, Todd Akin of Missouri, about what he called "legitimate rape."

Asked about the so-called fiscal cliff - a combination of automatic spending cuts and tax hikes set to kick in early next year – Mr Obama said he was confident that a solution could be found before the end of the year.

"Solving this is not that hard. It requires some tough choices," Mr Obama said, adding that some programs had to be cut and tax rates should go up for people making more than $250,000 a year.

"I hope that we can get it done by the end of this year. It just requires some compromise, which shouldn't be a dirty word."

On the economic crisis gripping the European Union, Mr Obama said countries have been "kind of muddling along" and "they didn't respond as quickly as they could."

The United States is working with those nations to make sure they have a credible plan to maintain the unity of Europe, he added.

In a lighter moment, Mr Obama joked about real estate mogul and TV personality Donald Trump, who recently posted a video challenging Obama to release documents about his education.

</p> <p>Mr Trump has persistently questioned whether Mr Obama, a native of Hawaii, was actually born in the United States, and Mr Obama played off Trump's theories about his origins.</p> <p>"This all dates back to when we were growing up together in Kenya," Mr Obama joked. "We had, you know, constant run-ins on the soccer field. He wasn't very good and resented it."</p> <p><strong>Agencies</strong></p>

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