America decides

Obama scents victory in US election – but has he done enough?

Encouraging polls for President Obama on his last ever day campaigning. David Usborne reports in Madison, Wisconsin

Wisconsin

President Barack Obama danced on the stage wrapping up a rally in Cincinnati, Ohio, on Saturday night. Today – his last campaigning day of his career – he bounded forth with a wide grin before an overflow crowd in Madison, Wisconsin, energised by ballads from Bruce Springsteen. Did the whiff of victory – hard-fought for sure – hang here in the cold, blue-sky air?

The fate and the legacy of Barack Obama, the bruised Messiah for hope and change, are in the hands now not of himself, his advertising gurus or campaign advisers but of the American people who will pour into polling stations today. Complacency remains a luxury unavailable to him; yet the runes seem clear, something is nudging his way.

For one more gruelling day of hop-scotch rallies across four swing states the task for Mr Obama was to cajole his supporters to turn out and to detail the case for himself and against Mitt Romney. "Our work is not yet done," he declared here, saying the nation faced a historic choice between two distinct visions. "It's a choice between returning to the top-down policies that crashed our economy or a future that provides opportunities for everybody."

Some national polls still show a tie with his Republican foe. The final national NBC/Wall Street Journal survey has Mr Obama with the support of 48 per cent of likely voters and Mr Romney securing 47 per cent. But the polls that mattered - here in Wisconsin and the other eight battleground states - told the more compelling story; that the avenues to the 270 Electoral College votes needed to win looked more numerous and more wide for the incumbent.

Crucially, it would seem Mr Obama has held on to his edge, or even built on it, in the Midwest, notably in Ohio, but also here in Wisconsin and Iowa. Already, moreover, he has built an advantage in early voting patterns. Upwards of 30 million Americans had already voted in 34 states and the District of Columbia by last night. Those early votes have established leads for the President in Nevada, Iowa and Ohio, even if not by the margins of 2008.

"Here's what I predict, it will not be tied tomorrow," David Axelrod, the Obama strategist, boldly told a huddle of reporters, asserting that "all those pathways" to a College victory he had laid out one year ago, "are intact".

"We feel good here in Wisconsin where we have a solid lead and have the enthusiasm. We are going to have a good day in Ohio and we are going to have a good day in Iowa." In Florida, President Obama is "competitive", he said only.

Pundits are naturally shy of iron-clad predictions. Those reporters who were in Crawford, Texas, in 2004 remember a downcast George W Bush registering his vote with models showing a very slim lead that election day for the Democrat, John Kerry. The evangelical surge changed all that and Mr Bush instead won a second term.

But still. The Associated Press offered its own final analysis. Mr Obama was almost assured 249 Electoral College votes by carrying 20 states that are reliably Democratic or leaning his way, and the District of Columbia. Mr Romney could count by contrast on just 206 from 24 states that are strong Republican territory or lean right. The distance that must be made up in the battleground states to the magic 270-mark is thus far greater for one than the other.

"It's going to be great to feel the power of your votes and voices tomorrow," Springsteen told the 18,000 supporters here who had begun queuing in the streets in the pre-dawn hours, before launching into his vocal and mouth organ melody "Promised Land".

Nothing has bothered Mr Obama more than Mr Romney trying to usurp the "change" mantle that he claimed for himself in 2008. On the trail he has flattered Mr Romney with faint mockery as merely a salesman.

"We know what change looks like, Madison, and what he's selling isn't it … I know what real change looks like … because I have fought for it, you see the scars I have earned for it and you have seen the grey hairs on my head."

Some in Team Obama, which saw the President hold one final rally in Des Moines, Iowa, last night, the state that launched his Hope and Change dream in the caucuses of 2008, still don't want to jinx what they are daring to spy. Superstition is hard to shake and some among them are refusing to shave until the votes are all in. But one other bristly consigliore of the President looked this reporter in the eye here and said: "We feel good, we feel good."

What song was Mr Obama jiving to in Ohio? "Signed, Sealed, Delivered". Maybe Mr President. But not quite yet.

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