Romney insists victory is his 'destiny' as he begins final push

 

Orlando

Mitt Romney spent the eve of the election completing a frantic dash across four swing states that could still provide him with a narrow path to the White House, insisting to supporters that America is "one day away from a new beginning, one day from a fresh start."

Still energetic, but starting to go hoarse, the Republican nominee kicked-off his dash to the finish line in Florida this morning where he told a raucous crowd in Orlando that they were just hours from ejecting President Barack Obama from office. Despite small-but-hardening poll leads for his rival, especially in the most crucial battlegrounds, Mr Romney insisted that victory remains his "destiny".

"Listen to the voice inside that says we can do better - that says you can have a better job, a better life, a bigger, better country. That is what's in store with new leadership," he said. "That better life is out there, it's waiting for us. It's our destiny."

After leaving Orlando, Mr Romney flew to Virginia for two rallies, then on to Ohio, the nation's most keenly contested battleground, for the evening TV prime time. He was due to wind up at a basketball arena in Manchester, New Hampshire, late tonight, where the singer Kid Rock was scheduled to headline a "victory party".

The exhausting journey roughly mirrored what GOP strategists believe to be his most likely path to the White House. If Mr Romney were to take each of the four states, along with North Carolina, where he's ahead in the polls, he would win 270 of the 538 Electoral College votes. That would give him victory, by one seat.

It would also be likely to spark a flurry of litigation, amid growing complaints about the management of voting stations in Ohio and Florida, where Republican politicians have been accused of attempting to suppress voter turnout among demographics who vote early and are considered likely to lean to the Democrats.

In Florida, the GOP Governor Rick Scott cut the number of days of early voting from 14 to eight, and decided to shut polling stations on the final Sunday before election day. That's traditionally a time when many poor voters, who often work long hours during the week, choose to vote. It's also popular among black voters, whose churches have for years bussed congregations to polling stations after the morning service.

Mr Scott's decision led to reports of nine hours queues outside voting stations, which continued today. Raoul Balseiro, a local hotel porter, told The Independent he turned up at a polling station in Winter Park on Saturday morning to find a queue snaking around the building.

"I waited for an hour, but had to give up. The line had barely moved and I was late for work," he said. "Now I have to take unpaid leave on Tuesday to vote. I come from Cuba, and even Castro wouldn't pull the stunt Rick Scott's done."

In Ohio, early voting was reduced from five weekends before the election to one by the Republican legislature. In addition to long queues, a bigger legal battle could emerge over "provisional ballots", the validity of which is contingent on the voter proving that they are eligible to vote

Some 350,000 of these "provisional" ballots have been issued. They will only be counted if the race is sufficiently close to demand a recount. Both sides are amassing teams of attorneys to litigate their way through such an eventuality.

All that could be academic, however, if Mr Romney's small but tangible drift in swing states and national polls continues. He's now behind in both, albeit within the margin of error. On the betting exchanges, his odds have lengthened to 4:1, only narrowly tighter than those of John McCain on the eve of the 2008 election.

In Cleveland on Sunday, Mr Romney said an Obama victory is "possible, but not likely". Behind the scenes, his campaign says the same. They insist polls are over-sampling Democrats, and insist their rival's lead remains soft and vulnerable to an election-day swing in voter sentiment.

Further hints of desperation were evident this afternoon, when the Romney campaign announced that their "final victory rally," which had been scheduled for New Hampshire at 10pm last night, would not in fact be the candidate's last event on the trail.

Instead, after voting in Belmont, his home town in Massachussetts, on Tuesday morning Mr Romney plans to hold two final, election day rallies in Ohio and Pennsylvania, in a bid to eat into his rival's apparent lead. Team Obama says the plan smacks of desperation; their man plans to spend the day with his family, pausing only for a game of pick-up basketball.

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