Obama, Romney blaze through final days of presidential race

Obama, Romney blaze through final days of presidential race

President Barack Obama's voice was hoarse, and his challenger Republican Mitt Romney talked about his long bid for the presidency, DPA reported.

Headed into the last two days of a historically close presidential race, the candidates kept up a feverish pace Saturday, making a total of seven campaign stops in a bid to capture every vote they can.

At one point, they appeared just a few kilometres from each other in Iowa, one of seven to 10 fiercely contested swing states that will decide who claims the White House on Tuesday.

While the candidates are nearly tied in national polling, Obama has a slight advantage in the battleground states. The US president is not decided by the national popular vote, but rather by a system of electoral votes assigned to each state based on their representation in Congress.

In all but two of the 50 US states, the winner of the presidential vote takes all of the electoral votes. To win, a candidate must secure at least 270 electoral votes. Obama is already assured of 243 votes in heavily Democratic states, while Romney can claim 206, putting more pressure on Romney to win more of the swing states.

Early voters on Saturday waited three and more hours in Florida, the District of Colombia and elsewhere to take advantage of expanded balloting days. Along the storm-ravaged East Coast, both New Jersey and Pennsylvania governors moved to accommodate flood victims and rescue workers.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a possible future Republican presidential candidate tweaked by Republicans for praising Obama's handling of Hurricane Sandy, said he didn't "give a damn about presidential politics." His job in New Jersey, helping the state get back on its feet, was "much bigger" than the presidential elections, he said.

With the deadline for absentee ballots passed, he ordered his state government to issue absentee ballots via email or fax to people who requested them. They must e-mail or fax their ballots back by 8 pm Tuesday, when New Jersey polls close.

The stakes in the 2012 presidential race are "a choice between two very different visions for America," Obama, 51, told cheering supporters in Mentor, Ohio.

"It's a choice between going back to the top-down policies that crashed our economy, or a future that's built on a strong and growing middle class," the Democratic incumbent said.

Obama will visit Ohio every day until the election - a sign of just how crucial the Midwestern state is. No candidate has won the White House without the state since 1960.

A poll released Saturday shows Obama with a six-point lead over Republican challenger Mitt Romney in Ohio. The poll by NBC News, the Wall Street Journal and Marist gives Obama 51 per cent support to Romney's 46 per cent in the state.

In Dubuque, Iowa, Romney charged that Obama had failed to work with Republicans and touted his election as a Republican governor in the heavily Democratic state of Massachusetts as evidence of his bipartisan approach.

In New Hampshire earlier in the day, he told supporters: "The question of this election comes down to this: Do you want more of the same or do you want real change? President Obama promised change, but he could not deliver it. I promise change, and I have a record of achieving it."

But like Obama's rasping voice, Romney, who has been chasing the presidency for five years, also conceded in Iowa to campaign weariness: "We've come a long way, you guys ... We've had some long days and some short nights. And we are almost there."

Romney's campaign remains confident, even making a play for states such as Pennsylvania, once considered reliably within the Democrats' column.

The Obama campaign maintained the move was a sign of desperation and showed Romney was not confident at achieving victory in other crucial states. But just to hedge its bets, the Obama campaign was sending former president Bill Clinton to Pennsylvania on Monday, where he will make four stops.

On Sunday, Obama is to jet to New Hampshire, Florida, Colorado, Ohio and Wisconsin. Romney is to visit Iowa and Ohio again, followed by Pennsylvania and Virginia.

The 2012 presidential election will cost about 2.6 billion dollars, an actual decrease from the 2.8 billion dollars spent in 2008, according to the Center for Responsive politics.

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