Suspense to the end, President Barack Obama, Mitt Romney yield to voters (+video)
David Goldman, AP
CLEVELAND — Campaign 2012 packed frantic suspense to the finish Tuesday, with Vice President Joe Biden flying unannounced up next to Republican Mitt Romney in battleground Ohio even as voters across the country were deciding who would win the White House.
President Barack Obama stayed in hometown Chicago, reaching out to swing-state voters on the phones and via satellite while the other three men on the rival tickets had a high noon show-down along the shore of Lake Erie.
Romney and running mate Paul Ryan had scheduled the stop together just Monday, and Biden flew in to play defense as Romney waited on his plane for Ryan's arrival. The vice president rolled off the tarmac without comment to the surprised media traveling with him, just as Ryan's charter pulled in for a landing.
The rush for Ohio and its 18 electoral votes highlighted the importance of the state to both campaigns' victory plans. Polls going into Election Day showed Obama with a narrow lead there, and Romney said the eleventh-hour campaigning was meant to leave him with no regrets.
"I can't imagine an election being won or lost by, let's say, a few hundred votes and you spent your day sitting around," Romney told Richmond radio station WRVA earlier in the day. "I mean, you'd say to yourself, 'Holy cow, why didn't I keep working?' And so I'm going to make sure I never have to look back with anything other than the greatest degree of satisfaction on this whole campaign."
Meanwhile, Americans headed into polling places in sleepy hollows, bustling cities and superstorm-ravaged beach towns deeply divided. All sides are awaiting, in particular, a verdict from the nine battleground states whose votes will determine which man can piece together the 270 electoral votes needed for victory.
Obama has more options for getting there. So Romney decided to make the late dash to Cleveland and Pittsburgh on Tuesday while running mate Ryan planned another stop in Richmond, Va.
Obama visited a campaign office close to his home in Chicago and was met by applause and tears from volunteers before he picked up a phone to call voters in neighboring Wisconsin. He told reporters that the election comes down to which side can get the most supporters to turn out.
"I also want to say to Gov. Romney, 'Congratulations on a spirited campaign.' I know his supporters are just as engaged, just as enthusiastic and working just as hard today," the president said. The tightness of the race didn't keep Obama from winding down with his traditional Election Day basketball game with friends.
Romney was asked on WTAM radio in Cleveland whether he agreed that voters always get it right in the end. "I won't guarantee that they'll get it right, but I think they will," Romney replied.
It wasn't just the presidency at stake Tuesday: Every House seat, a third of the Senate and 11 governorships were on the line, along with state ballot proposals on topics ranging from gay marriage and casino gambling to repealing the death penalty and legalizing marijuana. Democrats were defending their majority in the Senate, and Republicans doing likewise in the House, raising the prospect of continued partisan wrangling in the years ahead no matter who might be president.
The forecast for Election Day promised dry weather for much of the country, with rain expected in two battlegrounds, Florida and Wisconsin. But the closing days of the campaign played out against ongoing recovery efforts after Superstorm Sandy. Election officials in New York and New Jersey scrambled to marshal generators, move voting locations, shuttle storm victims to polling places and take other steps to ensure everyone who wanted to vote could do so.
In New York City, authorities planned to run shuttle buses every 15 minutes Tuesday in storm-slammed areas to bring voters to the polls. In Ocean County along the New Jersey coast, officials hired a converted camper to bring mail-in ballots to shelters in Toms River, Pemberton and Burlington Township.
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