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


U.S. voters are poised to make history Tuesday when they choose either Democrat Barack Obama or Republican John McCain as the 44th President of the United States.
Obama has a solid lead in the polls, but McCain is vowing one last underdog victory to confound the political experts. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has more on the waning hours of the 2008 race for the White House - the longest and most expensive presidential campaign in history.

Both candidates used the final day of campaigning to crisscross the country in search of last-minute support.

Senator Obama rallied voters in Florida, the state that secured the presidency for George W. Bush in 2000.

"[It has been] 21 months of a campaign that has taken us from the rocky coast of Maine to the sunshine of California," Obama said. We are one day away from changing the United States of America!"

Obama also targeted North Carolina and Virginia - states that have reliably voted for Republican presidential candidates in the last several election cycles.

Republican John McCain had an even busier schedule on the final day of campaigning, focusing on seven states that could hold the balance of victory on Election Day including Pennsylvania, Indiana, New Mexico, Nevada and Florida.

"We need your help and we will win! Volunteer! Knock on doors! Get your neighbors to the polls! I need your vote! We need to bring real change to Washington and we have to fight for it," said McCain.

Despite his confidence, Senator McCain faces an uphill road to the White House. Obama leads McCain by an average of seven points in national public opinion surveys.

In addition, McCain is defending a number of traditional Republican states that he must win in the state-by-state tally of electoral votes that determines who will be the next president.

The winning candidate must secure a minimum of 270 electoral votes out of 538 in order to secure the White House.

Senator Obama is competitive in several states that President Bush won in the last two elections. These include Florida, Ohio, Colorado, Indiana and Virginia.

Senator Obama did get some bad news on the eve of the election when his 86-year-old grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, died in Hawaii after a battle with cancer. In a statement, Obama described her as "the cornerstone of the family and a woman of extraordinary accomplishment, strength and humility."

Tuesday's election will be historic no matter the outcome. Senator Obama is trying to become the nation's first African-American president. Senator McCain, who is 72, would be the oldest person elected as a first term president. A Republican victory would also usher in the nation's first woman vice president, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin.

Political experts say McCain's biggest obstacle is a public desire for political change after eight years of the Bush administration.

American University presidential scholar Allan Lichtman briefed members of the international press corps in Washington on the eve of the election.

"So I think the main thrust of this election is a rejection of the current direction [of the country] and a hunger for change," Lichtman said.

Experts also say Obama and the Democrats have an edge in enthusiasm, on the ground organization and money.

"We have never anything before like the difference that the two sides, the two major parties, are spending on television advertising," said Stephen Hess, who is with the Brookings Institution in Washington. "Obama is ahead by a ratio of seven-to-one."

Whoever wins the presidency on Tuesday also faces the prospect of expanded Democratic majorities in both the Senate and House of Representatives.

The new president will be inaugurated outside the U.S. Capitol building in Washington on January 20.

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