Americans go to the polls Tuesday to choose their leader after a deadlocked and bitter election campaign that has seen US President Barack Obama and his Republican challenger Mitt Romney focus on a handful of swing states.
The first results of the US Presidential Election reflected the deadlock of the 2012 US presidential campaign — of the ten votes cast at just past midnight in the tiny New Hampshire village of Dixville Notch, five were for President Barack Obama and five for challenger Mitt Romney.
Throughout the day, some 120 million Americans are expected to turn out to cast their ballot and decide their country’s policy direction for the next four years.
Polls show that this year’s vote is a virtual dead-heat that will be decided in a handful of states that have been the focus of the two candidates’ frenetic last few days of campaigning.
Despite the two rivals being neck-and-neck in national opinion polls, surveys give Obama a slight advantage in several vital swing states — most notably Ohio — that could give him the 270 electoral votes he needs for a second term in office.
The first polls will begin to close in Kentucky at 6 pm EST (midnight Paris time) on Tuesday, and the last will close six hours later on the West Coast.
As well as choosing their president, voters will also be deciding on the balance of power in theSenate, where 33 of the 100 seats are up for grabs. Polls indicate that Obama’s Democrats are likely to hold on to their slender majority.
The House of Representatives, where all 435 seats are at stake on Tuesday, is expected to remain in Republican control.
Obama and Romney sprint to finish
On the last official day of campaigning, Obama and Romney raced through the seven “swing” states where the outcome of the election will be decided.
Obama focused on Wisconsin (10 electoral votes), Ohio (18) and Iowa (6) in the Midwest. Barring any surprises elsewhere, winning these three states will give him the 270 electoral votes he needs for a second term.
Ohio, with its 18 Electoral College votes, is crucial to both candidates, and polls give Obama a slim lead of 3%.
Support for Obama there has been bolstered by his federal bailout of the auto industry, which accounts for one of every eight jobs statewide.
Speaking to a crowd in state capital Columbus, Obama ridiculed Romney’s claim to be the candidate of “change”, saying the muliti-millionaire former Massachusetts governor would merely rubber stamp the conservative Tea Party agenda.
“We know what change looks like, and what he’s selling ain’t it,” he told supporters.
Romney warns of partisan gridlock
Romney, meanwhile, said another Obama term would mean continued gridlock in Washington with neither party willing or able to work with the other, while warning that a continuation of the incumbent’s economic policies would lead to another recession.
“His plan for the next four years is to take all the ideas from the first term — the stimulus, the borrowing, Obamacare, all the rest — and do them over again,” Romney said in Lynchburg, Virginia.
“Our choice tomorrow is going to lead to very different outcomes.”
If elected, Romney will become the first Mormon US president.
Romney planned to vote at home in Massachusetts on Tuesday morning before a final trip to Ohio and Pennsylvania, a Democratic-leaning state he has been wooing in recent weeks.
Obama, who voted in October, will spend the day at his home in Chicago.