WASHINGTON (AP) — Two fierce competitors who've given their all, President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney now yield center stage to voters Tuesday for an Election Day choice that will frame the contours of government and the nation for years to come.
After a grinding presidential campaign that packed suspense to the finish, Americans head 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 a late dash to Cleveland and Pittsburgh on Tuesday while running mate Paul Ryan threw in stops in Cleveland and Richmond, Va. Obama opted to make a dozen radio and satellite TV interviews from his hometown of Chicago to keep his closing arguments fresh in voters' minds.
"I feel optimistic but only cautiously optimistic," Obama said on "The Steve Harvey Morning Show." ''Because until people actually show up at the polls and cast their ballot, the rest of this stuff is all just speculation."
Romney also reached out on Ohio drive-time radio, where he said told voters to remember as they go to the polls that the country is hurting financially under Obama's policies. "If it comes down to economics and jobs, this is an election I should win," Romney told Cleveland station WTAM.
Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Jill Biden, were among the first voters Tuesday in at a polling place in Greenville, Del., Biden's home state. Smiling broadly, Biden waited in line with the other voters and greeted them with a handshake. Outside he sent a message to people across the country who may encounter crowded polling places. "I encourage you to stand in line as long as you have to," he told television cameras.