US presidential rivals Barack Obama and Mitt Romney make a final dash to a series of crucial swing states on the last day of campaigning in the race for the White House.
After a long, bitter and expensive campaign, national polls show Obama and Romney are essentially deadlocked ahead of Tuesday’s election, although Mr Obama has a slight advantage in the eight or nine battleground states that will decide the winner.
The US election outcome will impact on a variety of domestic and foreign policy issues, from the looming “fiscal cliff” of spending cuts and tax increases that could kick in at the end of the year, to questions about how to handle illegal immigration or the challenge of Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
In a race where the two candidates and their party allies raised a combined $2bn, the most in US history, both sides have pounded the heavily contested battleground states with an unprecedented barrage of ads.
The close margins in state and national polls suggest the possibility of a cliffhanger that could be decided by which side has the best turnout operation and gets its voters to the polls.
In the final days, both Obama and Romney focused on firing up core supporters and wooing the last few undecided voters in battleground states.
Mr Romney reached out to dissatisfied Obama supporters from 2008, calling himself the candidate of change and ridiculing the president’s failure to live up to his campaign promises. “He promised to do so very much but frankly he fell so very short,” Mr Romney said at a rally in Cleveland, Ohio, on Sunday.
Mr Obama, citing improving economic reports on the pace of hiring, argued in the final stretch that he has made progress in turning around the economy but needed a second White House term to finish the job. “This is a choice between two different versions of America,” Mr Obama said in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Barack Obama will close his campaign on Monday with a final blitz across Wisconsin, Ohio and Iowa – three Midwestern states that, barring surprises elsewhere, would be enough to get him more than the 270 electoral votes needed for victory.
Polls show the Democrat candidate has slim leads in all three. His final stop on Monday night will be in Iowa, the state that propelled him on the path to the White House in 2008 with a victory in its first-in-the nation caucus.
Mitt Romney will visit his must-win states of Florida and Virginia – where polls show he is slightly ahead or tied – along with Ohio before concluding in New Hampshire, where he launched his presidential run last year.
The only state scheduled to get a last-day visit from both candidates is Ohio, the most critical of the remaining battlegrounds – particularly for the Republican candidate.
The former Massachusetts governor has few paths to victory if he cannot win in Ohio, where Mr Obama has kept a small but steady lead in polls for months.