U.S. voters will have the final say Tuesday in a very close presidential-election contest between President Barack Obama and Republican candidate Mitt Romney.
National polls show the race basically deadlocked, and that spurred the candidates into a frenzy of last-minute visits to key states where the election remains in doubt and will likely be decided.
President Obama spent a lot of time in the Midwest state of Ohio in the final days of the campaign in his quest for a second four-year term.
“This is not just a choice between two candidates or two parties," said the president. "It is a choice between two different visions of America.”
Republican Mitt Romney made a last-minute stop in Pennsylvania, a state that usually votes Democratic, but where recent polls show the race has narrowed.
“If there is anyone who wonders whether better jobs and better pay checks are a thing of the past, I have a clear and unequivocal message," said Romeny. "With the right leadership, America is about to come roaring back!”
Both candidates are trying to piece together a majority in the state by state tally of Electoral College votes. Each state is assigned a certain number of electoral votes based on population, and the candidate who wins 270 or more electoral votes out of a total of 538 will be declared the winner.
Political experts said about 40 of the 50 states lean strongly toward one candidate or the other, leaving 10 or so battleground or swing states, where the outcome is in doubt and where both campaigns are expending most of their efforts.
States receiving the most attention late in the campaign include Ohio, Florida, Virginia, Colorado, Iowa, New Hampshire and Wisconsin.
Longtime political observer Tom DeFrank said the president clings to narrow leads in many of the so-called swing states. He spoke on VOA’s Issues in the News program.
“President Obama has an ever so slight advantage, ever so slight, mainly because he seems to be ahead by a smidgeon in several key so-called battleground states," he said."But the margins in these seven, eight or nine swing states are so thin that they could go either way.”
The race has gotten closer since Mr. Romney’s strong performance in the first presidential debate in early October. But analysts said the president may benefit from last week’s news coverage of the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy along the East Coast and his role in directing the federal government’s relief effort.
In addition, the last unemployment report from the federal government showed better than expected job growth.
Larry Sabato, who directs the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, said, “You always look to the last week to see in a close election which candidate gets a little extra lift. Between [Hurricane] Sandy and the jobs report President Obama got that lift.”
But many experts said that no matter who wins on Tuesday, the country is likely to remain divided for the foreseeable future.
Political analyst David Gergen spoke on the CBS program ‘Face the Nation’. He said, “To me the question all along has not been who is going to win but can the winner govern?
"Can the winner get us out of this mess that we are in and get the ‘grand bargain’ [plan to reduce the deficit] and do the other kinds of things that need to ignite this country? I do not think the winner is going to have a mandate," Gergen said. "We are really going to have a country that remains bitterly and closely divided and that is tough for governing.”
In addition to the presidential race, all 435 seats in the House of Representatives will be up for election as well as 33 of the 100 seats in the Senate.
Republicans are expected to retain their majority in the House, even though Democrats might gain a few seats.
But most analysts expect Republicans will fall short of winning a majority in the Senate where Democrats hold a 53-47-seat edge.