President Bush is campaigning in Florida, the biggest state still up for grabs in the U.S. presidential race, with just two days to go before Election Day.
President Bush is wrapping up his campaign in the state that was pivotal in his election four years ago, when a 36-day recount of Florida votes ended in the U.S. Supreme Court.
Florida Republicans are hoping to avoid the controversies of the 2000 election with a clear-cut win for the president this time. But that will not be easy.
State-wide polls show President Bush and Democratic challenger Senator John Kerry in a statistical tie, raising prospects for another Florida recount. Thousands of lawyers from both political parties are already in the state preparing to challenge the outcome.
Nearly two million Floridians have already cast their ballots, more than twice the number who voted early four years ago. While those ballots will not be counted until the entire nation votes this coming Tuesday, they are an indication of whose supporters are turning out in what numbers.
Republicans say their lead in requests for absentee ballots will offset what appears to be a larger number of Democrats who are voting early. Democrats say the increased number of non-Cuban Hispanic voters will tilt Florida's balance toward Senator Kerry.
In the areas around Miami, officials project that nearly one-third of voters will cast their ballots before Election Day.
At a Republican rally in the neighborhood of Coconut Grove, President Bush urged supporters to get people out to the polls.
"You are voting today. You are voting on Tuesday. Tell your friends and neighbors, in a free society, we have an obligation to vote," he said. "Tell them, if they want a safer America, a stronger America, and a better America por todos [for all], to vote for me and Dick Cheney."
The president sprinkled his standard campaign speech with Spanish to appeal to Cuban-American supporters. He continued to raise questions about Senator Kerry's ability to lead the nation in the fight against terrorism.
"This election takes place in a time of great consequence," said Mr. Bush. "The person who sits in the Oval Office for the next four years will set the course for the war on terror and the direction of our economy. America will need strong, determined, optimistic leadership. I am ready for the work ahead."
Florida's importance in this election is reflected in the candidates' travel. President Bush has been to the state more than 30 times during the past four years, campaigning with his brother, the Florida governor, Jeb Bush. First Lady Laura Bush and their twin daughters were in the state last week, as was Vice President Dick Cheney.
Senator Kerry returns to Florida, after rallies in Ohio and New Hampshire. Former President Bill Clinton campaigned on behalf of the Democratic candidate in Florida last week.