With only hours to go in their marathon race for the White House, Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain planned a last sprint through key battleground states Monday as the history-making campaigns barreled toward Election Day.
McCain was speeding through seven swing states Monday, including Florida, Pennsylvania, New Mexico and Indiana, arguing that victory was nearly at hand despite national polls showing him falling behind his Democratic opponent.
“My friends, it’s official: There’s just one day left until we take America in a new direction,” the Arizona senator told a rally in Miami just after midnight, according to the AP.
McCain campaign chief Rick Davis told Fox News that supporters were making 5 million calls in the campaign’s final days. “I think that what we’re in for is a slam-bang finish,” Davis said, according to the LA Times.
McCain will wrap up his campaign rallies on Tuesday in Prescott, Ariz., and will await election results in the Phoenix area.
Obama, meanwhile, planned a rally in Jacksonville, Fla., at midday Monday and a swing through longtime GOP strongholds, including North Carolina and Virginia, which may be leaning Democratic.
“Don’t believe for a second that this election is over,” Obama told a crowd of more than 60,000 in Columbus Sunday. Another 80,000 greeted him in Cleveland, where rocker Bruce Springsteen warmed up the crowd.
“We can’t afford to slow down, sit back, or let up for one day, one minute, or one second in these last few days,” said Obama, who would be the nation’s first black president. Obama will watch out election night amid a rally in Grant Park in Chicago.
Late Monday afternoon, news emerged that Obama’s grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, had died of cancer, a little more than a week after Obama stepped off the campaign trail to say goodbye to her in Hawaii and days before the historic Election Day.
Dunham, who recently turned 86, helped raise Obama from a young age while his mother was working in Indonesia.
“It is with great sadness that we announce that our grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, has died peacefully after a battle with cancer,” Obama said in a joint statement with his sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng. “She was the cornerstone of our family, and a woman of extraordinary accomplishment, strength, and humility.”
A new Pew Research Center poll released Sunday, Nov. 2, showed Obama with 49 percent support to McCain’s 42 percent — a significant narrowing from Obama’s double digit lead in past polls.
Andrew Kohut of the Pew Research Center told NPR that the tightened race may be due to McCain making gains among whites, independents and middle-income voters and from shifting the pool of responses from registered voters to likely voters.
Obama’s position in the polls is also raising hopes for large Democratic gains in the Senate — particularly after a recent wave of GOP retirements — as well as in the House.
“John McCain is running in one of the worst environments ever for a Republican presidential nominee,” read a Washington Post analysis on Sunday. “The senator from Arizona has not been in front in any of the 159 national polls conducted over the past six weeks.”
Despite his poll deficit, some see McCain in role he’s familiar with: that of the underdog.
“If we were 10 points up, we’d all be a little bit happier,” Mark Salter, one of McCain’s aides, told the New York Times. “But you throw a lot of stuff at the guy, and he fights all the harder.”
The Pew survey also predicted strong voter turnout for Election Day, saying it may prove to be “significantly higher” than in 2004. To see how early voters have fared or document your own voting experience, check out the NewsHour/YouTube Video Your Vote project.