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Candidates Visit Key States in Final Sprint


American voters head to the polls on Tuesday to elect their next president after the longest and most expensive campaign in U.S. history. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama made last-minute appeals in three key states on Monday, while Republican John McCain took his message across the country.

In a final sprint, Illinois Senator Barack Obama started the day in the key swing state of Florida.

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

Obama is leading in national public opinion surveys by an average of seven points. But the race could be decided in a handful of highly contested states. They include North Carolina and Virginia, where Obama also held rallies on Monday.

U.S. presidents are selected by a state-by-state count of electoral votes, not by the national vote count.

The Republican candidate, Arizona Senator John McCain, visited key seven states on the last day of campaigning. He also started the day in Florida, which has 27 electoral votes of the 270 needed to win the presidency.

McCain told an early morning audience he can win the election.

"With this kind of enthusiasm and this kind of intensity, we will win Florida and we will win this race tomorrow," said John McCain.

McCain also stopped in Pennsylvania, a key industrial state that surveys show is leaning toward Obama. He shored up his support in Republican-leaning Tennessee, then visited Indiana, where the race is tight, before heading to the southwestern states of New Mexico and Nevada, and his home state of Arizona.

The vice presidential candidates were also working hard to get out the vote. McCain's running mate, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, had stops in five states, including Iowa.

"Iowa, do we have your commitment and can we count on you tomorrow," asked Sarah Palin.

The Democratic vice presidential candidate, Delaware Senator Joe Biden, traveled to Missouri, which is known as a bellwether state because it has backed the winning candidate in every presidential race for the past half century.

"We need to get out and elect Barack Obama president of the United States tomorrow," said Joe Biden.

The Obama campaign released some sad news on Monday, announcing that the candidate's 86 year old grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, had died in Hawaii after a battle with cancer. In a written statement, Obama described her as "the cornerstone" of his family.

Regardless of the outcome, Tuesday's election will be historic. Senator Obama, if elected, would become the nation's first African-American president. Senator McCain, who is 72, would be the nation's oldest first-term president if he is elected, and his running mate, Sarah Palin, would become the first woman vice president.

The presidential campaign has been the longest in U.S. history. It has also set new records for political fundraising. The two candidates together have raised about $1 billion, with Obama far outpacing his rival, raising $150 million in contributions in September alone.

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