The race for the U.S. presidency entered its final hours Monday, with polls showing Barack Obama holding a solid lead in his historic quest to become the U.S.'s first black president while rival John McCain grasped for a last minute upset.
Obama, speaking at an appearance with rock star Bruce Springsteen, said that he was "feeling good" about his chances in Tuesday's election, a day that caps the longest, most expensive presidential contest in U.S. history.
McCain meanwhile was racing through seven swing states that ends Tuesday morning, in a bid to persuade undecided voters that he, not his rival, was more qualified to lead the U.S. during a period of wars and economic crisis.
"With this kind of enthusiasm, this kind of intensity we will win Florida and we will win the election," McCain told a modestly attended outdoor rally in Florida on Monday.
Looking, again, to distance himself from the unpopular President George W. Bush, McCain stressed that he, too, opposes the Republican president's economic policies. But he insisted that Obama could be counted on to raise taxes, something he would not do.
Some polls showed tightening races in Florida, Ohio and a number of battleground states, as the Republicans hammered away at Obama as a tax-and-spend Democrat - historically, the Republicans' most potent weapon in U.S. presidential contests. They launched a last-minute advertising effort hoping to turn the Democratic tide.
But some national polls suggested Obama's lead was widening overall as the candidates moved to the final stages of the race, with the Democrat leading in Pennsylvania and other states McCain must win to have a chance of capturing the presidency.
A USA Today/Gallup poll being published Monday found likely voters favoring Obama by 11 points over McCain, 53-42 percent. The poll was conducted Friday through Sunday among 3,050 adults, and had a margin of error of 2 percent. Other polls showed Obama with a 7 or 8 percentage point lead.
With the economy in trouble and Bush's approval ratings at near-record lows, polls suggest Democrats will not just capture the White House, but expand their majorities in both chambers of Congress. Democrats have called the 72-year-old McCain Bush's "sidekick."
Obama exuded confidence Sunday. "The last couple of days, I've been just feeling good," he told 80,000 gathered to hear him - and Springsteen - in Cleveland, in the pivotal state of Ohio.
Early Monday, though, he said on CBS's "The Early Show" that the toughest part of his 21 month campaign were Republican or "right-wing media outlet" attacks on his wife, Michelle, which were "just completely out of bounds."
Determined to make sure that partisans translate their support into votes, both campaigns were shifting focus on Monday to get-out-the-vote efforts.
Democrat Caroline Kennedy, a member of the U.S.'s most prominent political family, and former Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney appeared on television and urged supporters to go to the polls on Election Day.
But a large part of the electorate has already rendered their verdict.
A record 27 million votes cast absentee or early ballots in 30 states as of Saturday night. Democrats outnumbered Republicans in pre-Election Day voting in key states.
Obama, 47, a first-term senator from Illinois, appealed to voters frustrated with wars abroad and economic turmoil at home.
He benefited from a campaign that raised hundreds of millions more than his opponent, and capitalized on a U.S. demographic shift as more young and nonwhite voters enter the electorate.
The Republicans have tried to curtail Obama's surge, dubbing him too inexperienced, too liberal and too tainted by associations with the political left to craft the kind of change needed in the country.
McCain's vice presidential running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, seized on the taxation issue in her final day of campaigning in Ohio.
While promising that she and McCain would lower taxes, balance the budget and eliminate the U.S. $10 trillion budget deficit, she said Obama had an ideological commitment to higher taxes and had consistently chosen "the side of bigger, more controlling government."
"We will win! We will win!" the crowd chanted.
While McCain's message appealed to core Republican voters, it may have failed to win many Democrats and independents in crucial states, where U.S. elections are decided.
To win, a candidate must win at least 270 of the 538 electoral votes distributed to states roughly in proportion to their population.
In most cases, the candidate who wins a plurality of votes in a state wins all of that state's electoral votes.
Obama is favored to win all the states Democrats captured in 2004, when Bush defeated the Democratic Sen. John Kerry. That would give him 251 votes.
He is leading or tied in several states won by Bush, giving him several paths to the 270 vote threshold - such as with victories in Ohio or Florida, or in a combination of smaller states.
Obama campaign manager David Plouffe said Sunday that the Democrat has spread its bets by aggressively campaigned in traditional Republican states. "We wanted a lot of different ways to win this election," he said on Fox television.
McCain meanwhile must hold on to as many Bush states as possible and try to capture some major Democratic strongholds, such as Pennsylvania.
McCain campaigned in Florida Monday, and planned stops to Tennessee, Indiana, New Mexico and Nevada before returning early Tuesday to his home state of Arizona.
Obama planned appearances in Florida, North Carolina and Virginia.
While the polls favor Obama, there are still many uncertainties about how the unprecedented contest will play out.
McCain's advisers said he has come from behind before, most recently to win the Republican nomination. No one is certain, meanwhile, how white Democratic voters will in the end will react to Obama's race.
The two candidates have amassed a stratospheric $1 billion, with Obama's campaign raising hundreds of millions of dollars more than his rival's.
But McCain's party splurged in the campaign's final days and now are matching or exceeding Obama's advertising blitz in key states.
The Republicans launched a barrage of phone calls to voters in battleground states that featured Hillary Rodham Clinton's criticism of Obama in the Democratic primary.
The Pennsylvania Republican Party also unveiled a TV ad featuring Obama's former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, declaring "God damn America!" in a sermon.
During the primaries, Obama was forced to distance himself from Wright, but McCain said he would not make the pastor an issue in the general election.
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