Candidates sprint across US as race nears end

Polls show Obama with slight lead in many swing states; presidential election may come down to which side turns out vote.

Obama, Romney laughing funny 390 (photo credit: REUTERS/Jim Young)
Obama, Romney laughing funny 390
(photo credit: REUTERS/Jim Young)
WASHINGTON – The presidential candidates crisscrossed the US in a frantic day of campaigning Sunday, as polls put the race at a virtual dead heat less than 48 hours before Election Day.
In addition to appearances by US President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney in swing states including Florida, Ohio, Iowa and Virginia, campaign surrogates took to podiums and television screens to lobby for their candidate.
Romney and Obama made direct appeals for votes in a race that may come down to which side does the best job of getting its supporters to the polls.
“It’s up to you. You have the power,” Obama told a crowd of more than 14,000 people who filled the downtown streets of Concord, New Hampshire. “You will be shaping the decisions for this country for decades to come, right now, in the next two days.”
In Iowa, Romney urged more than 4,000 people in a Des Moines hall to get out and vote – and convince a few undecided or former Obama supporters to back him while they are at it.
Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, renewed his argument that he is the candidate who offers real change and can reach out to Democrats to craft bipartisan agreements.
“Accomplishing real change is not just something that I talk about. It’s something that I’ve done,” Romney told supporters in Des Moines. “And it’s something I’m going to do when I am president of the United States.”
Click here for special JPost coverageClick here for special JPost coverage
Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s first White House chief of staff and now the mayor of Chicago, defended Obama’s national security record on CNN Sunday after a blistering attack by Rudy Giuliani two days earlier.
Giuliani, who was mayor of New York during the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, and ran against Romney for the GOP presidential nomination in 2008, blasted Obama Friday for his handling of the attacks on American diplomats in Benghazi, Libya, on September 11, 2012.
“What happened in Libya is the result, at least, of incompetence,” Giuliani said, adding that Americans would have “a chance to right that wrong” on Tuesday.
“On Benghazi, the president did exactly what a president should do,” Emanuel countered, describing Obama as having exercised leadership with his approach in carefully investigating the incident, in which four Americans, including the ambassador, were killed. “A mistake, if it was made in any other agency, then you fix it, and that’s what leadership is. It’s not trying to point fingers. It’s trying to get to the bottom of something.”
He also used the opportunity to remind viewers that Obama had taken out Osama bin Laden, something he pledged to focus on during his first run for the White House.
Earlier in the week, Obama picked up the endorsement of a different New York mayor, political independent Michael Bloomberg, who had previously indicated he would not be endorsing either candidate but was moved by Hurricane Sandy to back Obama.
Despite the intensive efforts of the campaigns and their supporters, the polls remain essentially deadlocked.
A Reuters/Ipsos poll released Sunday showed Obama beating Romney 48 percent to 47%, but the survey’s margin of error was greater than the 1 point separating the two men.
Polls also show Obama with slight leads in many of the eight or nine swing states, including Ohio, Wisconsin, Iowa and Nevada – states that would give him more than the 270 electoral votes he needs, barring any surprises elsewhere.
Victory in these states is seen as crucial in determining the outcome of the race.
His leads, however, are mostly slim, the numbers have been tightening and the Romney campaign has been expanding its range as it sees more states in play.
Pennsylvania, for instance, is a state that had long looked safe for Obama, but now polls show Romney within striking distance and even tied with Obama there in at least one case.
The Romney campaign is trying to capitalize on this opening, sending vice presidential running mate Paul Ryan to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Saturday and adding a stop for Romney himself Sunday.
“We win Pennsylvania, we save America in three days,” Ryan told the crowd.
The Obama campaign has dismissed the threat that Pennsylvania could go to the Republicans, but that confidence seemed belied by the last-minute attention the Democrats were giving to the state.
Second lady Jill Biden was making several stops in Pennsylvania over the weekend, and former president Bill Clinton was scheduled to show up on Monday.
Obama himself was scheduled to hit New Hampshire, Florida, Ohio and Colorado on Sunday.
Florida, one of the most significant swing states, has one of the US’s largest concentration of Jewish voters, particularly in the southern region due to be visited by Obama Sunday afternoon.
He was slated to speak in Hollywood, near Fort Lauderdale.
Emanuel said that the Obama camp was visiting Pennsylvania as well as other swing states because the race was “naturally tightening,” but that they always thought it would be extremely close.
Emanuel contended that the race would in the end “come down to a four-letter word,” a joking reference to his well-known penchant for colorful language.
But the word he offered Sunday morning was familyfriendly: jobs.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie defended his praise for Obama’s support after superstorm Sandy, but said he would stick with his Republican ticket and vote for Romney in this Tuesday’s election.
“The fact of the matter is what New Jerseyans expect from their governor is to work for them, not to work for any particular political party,” Christie told Israel’s Channel 2 television in an interview broadcast on Sunday.
“I’m a Republican and I have endorsed Mitt Romney, I support him and I intend to vote for him on Tuesday,” said Christie, interviewed in his home state.
Christie, a popular governor widely seen as a possible Republican contender in 2016, had frustrated some in the Romney campaign who feared he had given what could be a critical boost to Obama, a Democrat.
He referred to Obama’s pledge of federal aid during a visit to help New Jersey recover from the storm that knocked out power to some 2.4 million of its residents and said: “If the president of United States comes here and he’s willing to help my people and he does it then I’m gonna say nice things about him because he’s earned it.”
Obama “provided help to my people at one of the worst crises that this state has ever faced,” Christie added. “When somebody does a good job, they deserve credit.”
“Anybody who is upset in the Republican Party about this, they haven’t been to New Jersey. Come see the destruction, come see the loss.”
Reuters contributed to this report.