, SANFORD, Florida, Nov 5 – After a gruelling 18-month battle, the final full day of campaigning arrived Monday for President Barack Obama and rival Mitt Romney, two men on a collision course for the world’s top job.
With polls showing an extremely tight race, Obama and Romney are trying to convince the narrowing sliver of undecided voters that their policies, their platforms, their approach to leading America forward are the right ones.
The candidates have attended hundreds of rallies, fundraisers and town hall events, spent literally billions on attack ads, ground games, and get out the vote efforts, and squared off in three intense debates.
Romney was first out of the gate Monday, addressing a rally in the biggest swing state of all, Florida, barely 10 hours after wrapping up an event the night before in Virginia.
“We have one job left,” Romney told a modest crowd at an airport hangar in Sanford outside Orlando, part of the state’s critically important I-4 corridor.
“We need every single vote in Florida,” Romney said, calling on supporters to make last-ditch phone calls and door knocks.
“We ask you to stay at it all the way to victory on Tuesday night,” he said, to chants of “One more day! One more day!”
Both candidates engaged in a weekend campaign marathon, going deep into the night Sunday in a frenetic 11th-hour search for votes.
“I need you, Ohio,” Obama admitted Sunday to a 20,000-strong crowd in Cincinnati, in a state for which both candidates are fighting tooth and nail.
“And if you’re willing to work with me, and knock on some doors with me, if you’re willing to early vote for me, make some phone calls for me, turn out for me, we’ll win Ohio. We will win this election,” the president said.
The final dash underlined the tightness of a race that is drawing to a close with both campaigns confidently predicting victory.
As the clock ticked down to Tuesday’s vote, Romney’s efforts included a surprise foray on Monday night into Pennsylvania, a Democratic-leaning state that Republican strategists say is breaking his way.
“We’re taking back the White House because we’re going to win Pennsylvania,” Romney told a crowd of up to 30,000, according to US Secret Service estimates quoted by the campaign, who had gathered on a farm in frigid weather.
Obama advisers dismissed the trip as a sign of desperation from the challenger less than 48 hours from election day.
And yet a valuable character witness, former president Bill Clinton, will headline four rallies for Obama on Monday in Pennsylvania, to counter Romney’s late push there.
Democrats said they were confident of Obama’s small but steady lead in key swing states, but acknowledged that everything now depends on getting the vote out.
“Ultimately, it’s up to you. You have the power,” Obama said at a 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.”
On an energy-sapping swing, the Democratic incumbent also traveled to Florida, Ohio, and Colorado before touching down in Wisconsin in the early hours Monday.
Exhaustion began to show on both candidates this past weekend as they kept up the pace straight into Monday, when each performs another dash across crucial states that could decide the outcome of the election.