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Tight US Election Now in the Hands of Voters

November 06, 2012

by VOA News

Voters across the U.S. are heading to the polls Tuesday, to decide whether to re-elect President Barack Obama or pick a new American leader for the next four years, Republican challenger Mitt Romney.

The national presidential election is nearing the finish line, but the outcome is uncertain. After a year-and-a-half of campaigning, three debates and thousands of televised campaign ads, nationwide pre-election surveys show the two candidates in a virtual deadlock.

But the surveys also show Obama with a slight edge in a handful of key battleground states that are likely to determine the outcome.

U.S. presidential election campaigns are not decided by the national popular vote, but rather by a two-century-old electoral college system in which each of the 50 states' influence on the outcome is roughly equivalent to its population.

Each candidate needs at least 270 of the available 538 electoral votes to win the election.

Congressional seats

In addition to the presidential contest, voters are electing all 435 members of the House of Representatives, the lower chamber of Congress, and 33 of the 100 members of the Senate. Analysts generally say Republicans will continue to hold their majority in the House, while the president's Democratic party could maintain its slim majority in the Senate.

Millions of Americans have already cast ballots in early voting over the last month. But the vast majority of the electorate will head to schools, churches, firehouses and other polling places across the country on Election Day.

Obama voted a few days ago in his home city of Chicago, Illinois, and plans to spend Tuesday there. He is taping interviews for broadcast in key states and also playing basketball with friends, one of his Election Day traditions.

Romney, a one-time venture capitalist, voted Tuesday morning in Massachusetts, the northeastern state he once governed but where Obama is expected to win easily.

The Republican contender then plans to continue campaigning. He is heading to the closely contested state of Ohio in the central part of the country and to neighboring Pennsylvania, a state long thought to be safely in Obama's grasp but one where Romney hopes to spring an upset.

President Obama and Mitt Romney dashed across several key battleground states Monday in a final effort to sway any remaining undecided voters.

Obama made campaign stops in Wisconsin and Ohio, before holding a final rally in Iowa, the state that gave him his first primary victory in his historic 2008 White House campaign. The Democratic incumbent boasted of his accomplishments during his presidency, including the bailout of the U.S. auto industry and the killing of Osama bin Laden, but said he needed another term to complete his agenda.

"Our fight for change goes on. Because we know this nation cannot succeed without a growing, thriving middle class and sturdy ladders for everybody who's willing to work to get into that middle class," the president told supporters."Our fight goes on because America's always done best when everybody's got a fair shot and everybody's doing their fair share, everybody plays by the same rules. The people of Iowa understand that. That's what we believe, that's why you elected me in 2008, and Iowa, that's why I'm running for a second term as president of the United States."

Romney held a rousing late-night rally in New Hampshire, where he launched his campaign more than a year ago, after events in Florida, Virginia and Ohio.

The former Massachusetts governor his record as both a successful businessman and politician shows he, not Obama, would bring about real change for the nation.

"I built a business, I turned around another one, I helped put an Olympics back on track, and with a Democrat legislature, I helped turned my state from deficit to surplus, and from job losses to job growth, and we went from higher taxes to higher take-home pay," the presidential hopeful said. "And that's why I'm running for president, because I know how to change the course the nation is on, and I'll do it."

Romney votes in his hometown of Boston Tuesday, and has scheduled two last-minute Election Day events in Ohio and Pennsylvania. The president and his wife, Michelle, will spend Tuesday in their home in Chicago.

Voters in the small New Hampshire towns of Dixville Notch and Hart's Location cast their ballots at midnight (0500 UTC) Tuesday, keeping with tradition in being the first locations in the nation to vote on Election Day. Obama and Romney tied at five votes each in Dixville Notch. In Hart's Location, the president won 23 votes while Romney finished with nine.

A wide collection of polls shows the two candidates in a very close race nationally. But state-by-state polls show Obama with steady, but narrow leads in most of the closely contested states likely to determine the outcome.

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