Published November 06, 2012
Polls have begun to open across America after two tiny villages in northern New Hampshire kicked off the 2012 election by casting the first Election Day votes early Tuesday.
President Obama and Republican Mitt Romney each won five votes in the small town of Dixville Notch, which was the first to announce its results after polls opened and closed within 43 seconds.
In Hart's Location Obama won with 23 votes, Romney received 9 and Libertarian Gary Johnson received 1 vote after 5 minutes, 42 seconds of voting. The towns have enjoyed first-vote status since 1948.
Meanwhile, Romney was taking his nearly six-year campaign for the presidency all the way to Election Day, making last-minute plans to visit two vital battlegrounds on Tuesday, while Obama held a nighttime rally in Iowa Monday.
The event, which is expected to be the last official campaign stop of the president's political career, was held in the same state where a 2008 caucus victory jump-started his road to the White House.
The president was photographed with tears running down his face as he spoke before a crowd of 20,000 supporters, telling them "this is where our movement for change began."
The president never mentioned Romney in his closing appeal, which sought to draw on the hope and optimism of his first campaign.
Romney returned Monday night to the state where he launched his bid, telling supporters in New Hampshire during his final campaign rally that he needs their votes again.
"It's all your votes and your work right here in New Hampshire that will help me become the next president of the United States," Romney told a thunderous capacity crowd at the Verizon Wireless Arena, which holds about 10,000 people. "We thank you and we ask you to stay in it all the way to the victory tomorrow night."
The final hours of the exhausting 2012 contest were played out at earlier mega-rallies across a half-dozen states. Each candidate sought to close the deal with voters promising "change," while accusing the other of peddling an agenda that would choke the country's already meager economic recovery.
Romney, in Fairfax, Va., said Obama simply has not lived up to his promises.
"Change can't be measured in speeches, it's measured in achievements," Romney said.
Obama, in Columbus, Ohio, claimed he's been fighting against the "status quo" and opponents who bet on "cynicism."
"I've got a whole lot of fight left in me, and I hope you do, too," the president told the cheering crowd.
The Romney campaign, in a surprise move, announced Monday that it would hold two campaign stops on Tuesday -- in Cleveland, Ohio, and Pittsburgh, Pa.
Ohio is arguably the hardest-fought contest of the race, with both candidates visiting Monday and both pouring millions into that battleground. But with polls giving Obama a slight edge in the Buckeye State, Romney's campaign also has made a late play for Pennsylvania -- a win in Pennsylvania could allow the Republican nominee to lose Ohio and still have a pathway to the 270 electoral votes it takes to win.
The Obama campaign, though, dismissed Romney's Election Day efforts. Spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Obama has no plans to leave Illinois on Election Day, though he is expected to do several local interviews Tuesday. She said it's "no surprise" that Romney scheduled a late visit to Ohio.
"Without that state, it's a rocky road for them to victory. It's an insurmountable road, I would say," she said.
Voters across the country on Tuesday will cast ballots not just in the presidential race, but a host of congressional races that will determine the balance of power on Capitol Hill next year. Democrats currently control the Senate by a narrow 53-47 margin.
It's still an uphill climb for Republicans to take control -- they have a much easier shot at retaining control of the House.
Meanwhile, voters are deciding on an array of controversial measures at the state level including several that would partially legalize marijuana.
In the presidential race, battleground polls show a mixed picture. While Obama has the edge in Ohio, for example, Romney has the edge in the crucial state of Florida. Nationally, the latest and final Gallup survey showed Romney with 49 percent and Obama with 48 percent support.
Obama was closing out his campaign, which he vows will be his last, in Des Moines, Iowa, the state that launched him on the path to the presidency in 2008 when caucus-goers selected him at the start of the primary battle. Obama also visited Wisconsin and Ohio on Monday, joined throughout by rocker Bruce Springsteen. In Columbus, rapper Jay-Z performed and tweaked his own lyrics to include a political message: "I got 99 problems but Mitt ain't one."
Romney, meanwhile, was getting back-up on stage from The Marshall Tucker Band in Columbus, Ohio, and from Kid Rock shortly before midnight in Manchester, N.H. He kicked off the day in Florida and Virginia.
"One final push is going to get us there!" Romney declared in Sanford, Fla.
In Madison, Wis., Obama, his voice hoarse, urged voters to help him "finish what we started."
"We have come too far to turn back now," the president said. He accused Romney of trying to "repackage the same old, bad ideas" as change, and tried to hold up the Clinton administration's economic record of the '90s as evidence that Democratic ideas "work."
"This should not be that complicated. We tried our ideas, they worked," Obama said. "We tried their ideas, they didn't work."
The Republican nominee in Florida continued to hammer his message that Obama is holding back the economic recovery, and that clearing him out of office will unleash the power of America's supposedly regulation-burdened entrepreneurs.
"The door to a brighter future is open; it's waiting for us. I need your vote, I need your help," Romney said. "Tomorrow, we begin a new tomorrow."
Romney claimed his campaign has "gathered strength" in recent weeks and become a "movement."
Indeed, Romney gained considerable traction in the polls after his first debate against Obama. But the race is still effectively tied at the national level. And in the battleground states where the election will be decided, voters are similarly split.
By most estimates, Obama comes into Election Day with a slight advantage in the electoral vote count. The RealClearPolitics electoral map shows the states likely to vote for Obama are worth 201 electoral votes, while those likely to vote for Romney are worth 191. It takes 270 to win.
The toss-ups include: Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin.