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Virginia: Hand to Hand Combat,
7:00 a.m. E.T.
Both campaigns expect a record-breaking turnout in Virginia, which has added more than 500,000 new voters to the rolls in the past year. The Obama campaign has worked particularly hard to try to win Virginia, which, as has often been said, has not elected a Democrat for President since Lyndon Johnson in 1964.
The Democrats have had a particular focus on suburban voters, new voters and southern voters in traditionally Republican areas. They are expecting hand-to-hand, door-to-door combat. Says Jared Leopold, Virginia's communications director for the Democratic party's coordinated campaign: "We are expecting a very close election. [Democratic Senator Jim Webb] won by less than 10,000 votes across Virginia. He won by less than one-half of a percentage point. [Democratic Governor Mark Warner] won by only five points in 2001."
The Democratic effort has, among other things, been sharpening its focus on fast-growing areas in Virginia such as Fairfax, Fredericksburg, Stafford, Charlottesville and the Richmond suburbs, Leopold says. "Often times new voters who move in to an area are more open-minded to Democratic messages," he says. The Obama-Biden ticket has made at least eight visits to the southwest and south side of Virginia, hoping to win support from traditional Republican areas. "Obama and Biden have focused on growing areas and areas that are traditionally not Democratic in order to send a message that this election is not about party," says Leopold. (See pictures of Joe Biden.)
McCain supporters were also going door-to-door across the state in a last minute push to reach likely voters. "We're very confident in Virginia because we are closing strong. We have a 20,000-strong, 72-hours volunteer force going door to door. Phone banks are full from morning to evening. We're seeing a lot of momentum and we are encouraged," says Gail Gitcho, McCain's mid-atlantic regional communications director. By Kris Osborn
Cleveland: Memories of 2004,
7:00 a.m. E.T.
Memories of the 2004 presidential election haven't faded here in Cuyahoga County, where Cleveland is located. Botched administration in counties around the state tethered voters to their precincts, sometimes for hours, and the confusion forced many to cast provisional ballots, which were a source of more bureaucratic and legal bickering. Since then Ohio has enacted a month-long early voting period and Cuyahoga County has completely overhauled its elections system twice. (See pictures of tough times in Cleveland.)
Still, the lines for early voting were long, an ominous sign for today's vote. And the fact that people were willing to put up with it reflected voter frustration with Ohio's tanking economy. Bell Bonner, a black, 50-year-old mother, was in line to vote Monday afternoon for Democrat Barack Obama. She had her three toddler-aged children in tow and was calling up nieces and nephews, some of them first-time voters, to join her. "It's the recession," Bonner said when asked why. "It's crime in Cleveland, it's no jobs." She says, "Everybody who didn't vote last time is voting this time."
Ohio has seen its highest ever voter registrations this election year and an almost commensurate number of legal battles between Republicans and Democrats over which ones should count. It remains unclear which party will gain the upper hand, however, and both candidates continue swinging away at the quintessential swing state, with many neighborhoods far-flung from Democratic Cleveland still in play. By Charu Gupta / Cleveland
Pittsburgh: Where the Crunch Could Come,
7:00 a.m. E.T.
Both sides must think the Pittsburgh area is going to make a difference. Yesterday, John McCain greeted 1,500 at Pittsburgh International Airport, while Hillary Clinton stopped by a suburban Pittsburgh Obama office to encourage the troops. Bill Clinton, meanwhile, was campaigning with John Murtha up the road in Johnstown, trying to buck up the anti-war but veteran-friendly Democratic Congressman. Murtha's reelection once seemed inevitable, until he labeled his constituents "racists" and "rednecks" who would find it difficult if not impossible to vote for Obama. (See pictures of Barack Obama's family tree.)
Even the state's Republican governor speculated this year that a certain number of Pennsylvanians would never vote for a black president. That's the portion of the white vote Hillary Clinton once counted on to put her over the top in the primary here. Murtha's territory includes a portion of Pittsburgh's Allegheny County, though none of the city itself. Will such local voters hurt Obama today?
And then there are the machines. Allegheny County was the only county in the country to verify the software on a portion of its ES&S-brand iVotronic voting machines prior to this election. However, the county employed a testing firm that was suspended the next week by the federal government. Will local voting watchdogs find the malfunctions, inaccuracies or even tampering they fear in those paperless machines? And will a state Supreme Court ruling, forcing all polling places to have emergency paper ballots on hand if there are breakdowns in 50% or more of machines, help or hinder the process? By Marty Levine / Pittsburgh
All Eyes on Florida's 25th District,
7:00 a.m. E.T.
George W. Bush clobbered John Kerry 56% to 44% in Florida's 25th congressional district in 2004. The 25th probably has more alligators than voters, since it stretches west from the southern suburbs of Miami clear across the Everglades. But if Barack Obama can win there today and his prospects look surprisingly strong then Florida, the nation's largest swing state, will most likely be a swamp for John McCain.
Obama looks to be in a statistical dead heat with McCain in the district (just as the Democratic challenger in the 25th, Joe Garcia, is neck-and-neck with the Cuban-American GOP incumbent, Mario Diaz-Balart). The key is how many Cuban-Americans Obama can poach from the GOP; and Obama volunteer Jose Realin thinks he can deliver them. Realin, 38, a bail bondsman and a lifelong registered Republican now on the Democrat's side, was heading out of the Obama campaign office in the 25th on Monday evening to knock on doors in Cuban neighborhoods. "They worry that Obama won't be tough enough with Castro," he said, "but the economy, the war that stuff is making them a lot more open-minded."
Signs outside the campaign office weren't trumpeting the polls that showed Obama well ahead of McCain across the country. Instead, they flashed a Zogby International poll released over the weekend that has McCain with a two-point lead. It's meant to spur Obama ground workers like Realin in their unlikely effort to put the Illinois Senator over the top in a state that hasn't voted for a northern Democrat since Franklin Roosevelt in 1944.
On Monday, Obama, who holds a slight lead over McCain in Florida in most polls, hit Jacksonville, a key pocket of the state's more conservative north. At the same time, at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, at the end of the politically fluid I-4 Corridor, McCain held a rally that didn't bode well for his comeback bid for Florida's 27 electoral votes. Bush drew 15,000 people at that site during the 2004 campaign; earlier this month, Obama drew 8,000. For McCain, just over 1,000 showed up. By Tim Padgett / Miami