MORRISVILLE, Pa. – And now it is closing time.
Today, in the final hours of their 17-month, nearly $3 billion marathon, the two candidates and their running mates are scheduled to hold 14 events across eight states.
For Republican challenger Mitt Romney, this last full day of campaigning is aimed at achieving what he has seemingly been unable to do over the first 522 days: overcome President Obamas razor-thin but steady leads in the states where the election will be decided.
A pair of national polls seemed to show that it was Obama who had a bit of momentum in the races last weekend. A Washington Post-ABC News poll showed the president at 49 percent to Romneys 48 percent. The tracking poll has had both candidates locked within a narrow band for weeks.
Another poll, released Sunday by the Pew Research Center, found Obama with a 3-point lead nationwide among likely voters, 48 percent to 45 percent. A week ago, the same poll had the two candidates tied.
Meanwhile, a poll late Sunday by CNN showed the race deadlocked at 49 percent.
Romney and his aides said they were confident of victory. The Republican made a striking gesture of that confidence by visiting Pennsylvania, a state long assumed to be in Obamas column and one that has not voted for a GOP presidential candidate in more than two decades.
Taking the stage to the Rocky theme before a crowd of about 30,000 in Morrisville, Romney declared that this audience and your voices are being heard all across the nation. Were taking back the White House, because were going to win Pennsylvania!
On Sunday, the two campaigns held 14 events in eight states, including six in the battleground of all battlegrounds, Ohio. At one point, the two sides got close enough to see each other: As Air Force Two prepared to take off from the Cleveland airport on Sunday afternoon, Vice President Joe Biden spotted Romneys campaign plane across the tarmac.
For both candidates, it was a day of big crowds – and final goodbyes.
In the morning, Obama visited New Hampshire for the seventh time during the general-election season after campaigning there extensively four years ago. This, presumably, was his last visit as a candidate. He spoke to a crowd of 14,000 in Concord, the state capital, with former President Bill Clinton.
I know you guys – you saw a lot of me in 2008, Obama told the audience. And back then, we talked about change we can believe in. But I said to people, you know: Im not just talking about changing parties or changing presidents. Im talking about changing how our politics works.
Later Sunday, the president made his last stops in Florida and in Colorado. He also visited Ohio – but he will be back. Today, Obama will return for a rally in Cincinnati and will also travel to Wisconsin and Iowa, touching on the Midwestern trio that could provide his path to victory. At days end, he will return to his hometown, Chicago, for Election Day.
Romney on Sunday made his last stop in Iowa after at least 14 trips there during the general-election campaign and many, many more before that, leading up to the 2008 and 2012 caucuses.
Talk is cheap, but a record is real, and its earned with real effort, Romney told a boisterous crowd of 4,000 at the Hy-Vee Hall in downtown Des Moines. He reprised a common stump-speech appeal, asking his supporters to reach out to friends and neighbors who may still be undecided. You cant measure change in speeches. You measure change in achievements, he said.
Romney also visited Ohio on Sunday, speaking to 6,000 in Cleveland. At one point, he started to make an argument by saying, If the president were to be re-elected
He was interrupted by boos.
Its possible, he told the crowd in response, but not likely.
Today, Romney will go to Ohio for the last time – making at least his 44th trip there during the general-election campaign. His itinerary also includes two stops in Virginia, one in Florida and a last, late-night rally in Manchester, N.H. Romney will then return to his home outside Boston for Election Day.
For many voters, the election is over. In the Post-ABC poll, 27 percent of all likely voters said they had cast their ballots already. In some battleground states, the numbers are even higher: In Nevada, the votes already cast are equal to 72 percent of the total vote in 2008. In Colorado, the figure is 68 percent.
Ohio doesnt have traditional party registration. But outside polling has consistently shown Obama winning early voters there by double digits. About a quarter of likely voters in the state have already cast ballots.
There, Sunday was the day for Souls to the Polls, an effort by the Obama campaign to take churchgoers directly to vote after Sunday services. Nearly 230 churches across the state joined in.