LYNCHBURG, Va. — President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney made last-minute pleas for votes Monday, employing their last vestiges of energy, celebrity boosters and plenty of jet fuel to encourage every supporter and the few remaining undecideds to tip the 2012 election in their favor.
National polls of the eve of Election Day showed a neck-and-neck race. But the winner will be determined by which man gets 270 electoral votes, and Obama had more paths to get there.
Ohio looms large in both of their victory plans — it was the only state both candidates were visiting Monday. And Romney's campaign announced in the afternoon that the GOP nominee would come back on Election Day for a rally in the Cleveland area. Romney also planned a stop in the Pittsburgh area today.
The incumbent and the challenger, both fighting weariness and a hoarse voice, closed by arguing they could do more to lead the country out of the tough economic times that dominated Obama's term. "This nation is going to begin to change for the better tomorrow," Romney said.
"Our work is not yet done," Obama told nearly 20,000 people who filled the street in front of the Wisconsin capital building.
Both men campaigned in states they need to win. Romney was in Florida, Virginia, and New Hampshire, while Obama was trying to protect Wisconsin from a late-breaking GOP challenge before heading to Iowa.
And in an indication of just how all-important Ohio was once again to the future occupancy of the White House, both candidates planned to be on the ground in Columbus in the evening for dueling rallies several hours and seven miles apart. The state has gone for the winner in every presidential election since 1964.
While Romney added more campaigning for today, Obama spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the president would stay in Chicago for his election night rally and reach swing-state voters through a series of radio and television interviews.
Both candidates were also hoping to benefit from some star power. Romney planned a final rally in the day's final hour in New Hampshire with Kid Rock while country rock performers The Marshall Tucker Band was joining him in Columbus. Obama had actors Samuel L. Jackson and Chris Rock doing urban radio interviews, "Mad Men" star Jon Hamm making calls in Colorado, rapper Jay-Z joining him in Columbus and rock legend Bruce Springsteen as his traveling warm-up act.
"He promised me a ride on Air Force One," Springsteen said, strumming his guitar as he made a political pitch between songs.
Both candidates predicted the winner will be determined by which of their operations can get the most supporters to the polls. "This is going to be a turnout election," the president declared in an interview broadcast early Monday as he pleaded with urban radio listeners to get to the polls.