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Obama, McCain Push for Support in Final Hours of US Presidential Campaign

  • Jim Malone

U.S. presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain are engaged in a furious last-minute push for votes in the final hours of the election campaign, with polls showing Obama continuing to lead McCain nationally by a solid margin. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone reports on the closing moments of the 2008 race for the White House, the longest and most expensive presidential campaign in U.S. history.

On the eve of what many experts regard as an historic election, Democrat Barack Obama held a lead over Republican John McCain by an average of seven points in national polls.

McCain undertook a massive get out the vote effort in the final hours of the campaign, targeting seven key states that may hold the balance of victory in the election, beginning with Florida.

"You know my friends, the pundits may not know it and the Democrats may not know it, but the Mac is back! And we are going to win this election," he said.

McCain's vice presidential running mate, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, energized Republicans in another key state, Ohio.

"Now, Ohio Election Day is just hours away now and the time for choosing is so near," she said. "Ohio, are you ready to help carry your state to victory?"

McCain trails in national polls and he faces an uphill fight in winning several states that generally support Republican candidates. Both the McCain and Obama campaigns are focused on a relatively small group of states in the final hours that include Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, Indiana, Nevada and New Mexico. These states, where the race is still too close to call, will be critical for either candidate to win the presidency, which is determined though a state by state system called the electoral college.

Despite his lead in the national polls, Obama is urging his supporters to take nothing for granted in the final hours of the campaign.

Obama told supporters in Florida to reject what he called the slash and burn attacks from the McCain campaign as the race draws to a close.

"Florida, at this moment in this election, we have a chance to rebuke that kind of politics, not just in the short term, we can end it once and for all," he said. "We can prove that the thing that is more powerful than negative campaigns is the will and determination of the American people. That is what we are fighting for!"

No matter who wins Tuesday, election history will be made. Senator Obama is poised to become the first African-American president, while Senator McCain would be the oldest candidate to win a first term as president. In addition, a Republican victory would usher in the country's first woman vice president, Sarah Palin.

More than 23 million Americans have already voted in more than 30 states that allow early in-person voting. Democrats have been encouraged so far by a strong turnout in several key states that allow early voting.

Norman Ornstein, a political analyst with the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, says his recent travels suggest Democrats are more enthusiastic and organized this year than the Republicans.

"For those of us who travel around the country a lot these days, as I do, the anecdotal evidence from the ground in state after state, whether they are normally competitive states or noncompetitive states, is just absolutely striking," he said.

Public opinion polls also suggest that no matter who wins the White House on Tuesday, the next president will deal with expanded Democratic majorities in both the Senate and House of Representatives.

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