Obama, Romney in final dash for U.S. presidency
MORRISVILLE, Pennsylvania (UPDATED) - US President Barack Obama and his Republican opponent Mitt Romney appealed to swing state voters Sunday, November 4 (Monday, November 5 Manila time) for the decisive edge they both know is needed to win the US election.
The final dash underlined the tightness of a race that is drawing to a close with the rival candidates and their aides confidently predicting victory after months of campaigning and conflicting fortunes in opinion polls.
As the clock ticked down to Tuesday's (November 6) vote with the outcome still in the balance, Romney's efforts included a surprise foray into Pennsylvania, a Democratic-leaning state that Republican strategists say is breaking his way.
Obama advisers, however, dismissed the trip as a sign of desperation from the challenger less than 48 hours from election day.
"We're taking back the White House because we're going to win Pennsylvania," Romney told a crowd put at around 30,000, according to US Secret Service estimates quoted by the campaign, who had gathered on a farm in frigid weather.
After his first event of the day in Des Moines, Iowa, the Republican flew to Cleveland, Ohio, firing up the crowd with loaded questions about Obama policy -- all met, by design, with shouts of "No" from the assembled party faithful.
"If the president were re-elected, he would..." Romney began later in his stump speech only to be interrupted by another huge "Nooooo!" in support. "It's possible, but not likely," replied Romney in a rare, unscripted moment.
"You hoped that President Obama would live up to his promise to bring people together to solve big problems but he hasn't, and I will."
Democrats said they were confident of Obama's small but steady lead in the key swing states that are likely to decide the election, but acknowledged that everything now depends on getting the vote out.
"Ultimately, it's up to you. You have the power," Obama said at rally in Concord, New Hampshire. "You will be shaping the decisions for this country for decades to come right now, in the next two days."
Earlier Romney, on his last stop in Iowa before the elections, implored supporters: "I need Iowa, I need Iowa, I need Iowa so we can win the White House and take back America."
Romney will also be in Virginia and Florida on Sunday as he and Obama burn up jet fuel hopping between battleground states.
Obama flew to New Hampshire to reprise a buddy act from the night before with Bill Clinton, which saw the popular former president place his economic legacy on the younger leader's shoulders.
On a grueling swing, the Democratic incumbent also traveled to Florida and then Ohio, and was set afterward to visit Colorado before touching down in Wisconsin in the early hours of Monday.
Campaign aides pointed at early voting advantages in Ohio and Florida as evidence that Obama is close to sealing the deal in his quest to become only the second Democrat since World War II to get a second term.
"Early vote's gone very well for us. We think we're closing with strong momentum," Obama advisor David Plouffe told ABC.
But as the race boils down to a handful of votes in key areas both sides are trumpeting their organizational skills and get-out-the-vote drive as decisive.
"Number one, their ground game is not superior," Romney aide Ed Gillespie told CNN. "And, number two, I think those undecided voters are going to turn out, and they're going to break pretty strongly against the president."
Romney was spending precious time in Pennsylvania because the momentum was shifting in his favor even in states with bedrock Democratic constituencies, another aide, Kevin Madden, told journalists en route to the Ohio event.
"This is actually the perfect time because you're 48 hours out from people making a decision," Madden said.
But Obama's team said Romney's raid was an acknowledgement that he can no longer put together the 270 electoral votes needed to win the election in the real swing states.
"This is a desperate ploy at the end of a campaign," said Plouffe on ABC's "This Week."
"A lot of this is a smokescreen, to try and mask the fact that in the places that will decide this election from an Electoral College standpoint -- Ohio, Iowa, Wisconsin -- it's going to be close, but they are definitely in a weak position heading into election day."
Pennsylvania has been in Obama's column for months, with the latest Real Clear Politics average of polls showing the incumbent up 4.1 percentage points in a state he won handily, by more than 10 percent, in 2008.
A valuable character witness, former president Clinton will headline four rallies for Obama on Monday in Pennsylvania, to counter Romney's late push there.
The race has largely revolved on Obama's economic record and Romney's past as a venture capitalist and the question of whether the challenger is ready to lead, but the candidates remain closely matched.
They are effectively tied in national polls of the popular vote but Obama appears to have a stronger claim to the battleground states, and if the polls are accurate, seems to be in position to win re-election.
The latest ABC News/Washington Post survey showed the race tied, with both Obama and Romney receiving 48-percent support among likely voters. - Michael Mathes, Agence France-Presse