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On Election Eve, Obama And Romney Try Blazing A Path To 270

A citizen votes on a paper ballot during the final day of early voting Monday in Lancaster, Ohio. (AFP/Getty Images)

(Revised at 5:46 pm ET)

On the final day of the 2012 campaign for the White House, President Obama and Mitt Romney are making the last push for votes in states each believes critical to achieving the 270 Electoral College votes needed for victory.

Obama was scheduled to campaign in three swing states, while Romney had events planned in four. The only overlap was in Ohio, considered the linchpin of the election.

Obama started the day with a morning event in Madison, Wis., the Badger State's capital, home to its flagship public university and, aside from Milwaukee, one of the most Democratic-leaning areas in the state.

Then it was on to Columbus in all important Ohio for an afternoon rally. It was another state capital with a flagship state university, Ohio State University.

At a rally in Columbus' Nationwide Arena, Obama outlined the choice, as he saw it, that voters faced on Election Day.

OBAMA: "Now, Ohio, tomorrow you've got a choice to make, although some of you already made the choice. How many have early voted around here? (Cheers, applause.) This is not just a choice between two candidates or two parties. It's a choice between two different visions of America. It's a choice between a return to the top-down economic policies that crashed our economy — (jeers) — or a vision that says we've got to build a strong foundation based on a strong and middle class and opportunity for everybody, not just some." (Cheers, applause.)

The president was scheduled to end the day with a rally in Des Moines, Iowa. The symbolism was inescapable. Iowa was where Obama's presidential fortunes took flight in 2008 after he beat Hillary Clinton to win the state's Democratic caucuses.

With the exception of Ohio, Obama was going to states he could probably lose and still — under credible scenarios — capture enough electoral votes to achieve a second term. Political experts have said for some time that because of states that are presumed to be either Republican or Democratic sure things, the path to an Electoral College victory is wider for Obama than Romney.

Romney had events in Florida, Virginia, Ohio and New Hampshire. The first three are considered must-wins for Romney under many scenarios.

Romney began the day with a rally at the airport in Orlando, Fla. Recent polls in the Sunshine State have been mixed, but many experts think Romney may have a small advantage there in part because of his leads among certain key voter groups, including older white voters, white men and Cuban Americans.

After Florida, Romney had scheduled rallies in Virginia, specifically Lynchburg, in central Virginia, a conservative part of the state, and Fairfax County in Northern Virginia, the bluest part of a once reliably red state. Obama handily won Fairfax County just outside Washington, D.C., in 2008, which allowed him to become the first Democratic presidential candidate to win the state since 1964.

Virginia, like Florida, is considered a state that is very close, with most recent polls within the margin of error.

At the Patriot Center at George Mason University in Fairfax Country Romney, like Obama, told his supporters that voters faced a clear choice Tuesday:

ROMNEY: "And so our choice tomorrow will lead us to one of two very different outcomes. And I realize the American people are going to have that choice. I hope they recognize that there are two different places these choices will end up, because if the president were to be re-elected, he will still be unable to work with Congress. (Boos.) He — he ignored Congress. He attacked the people there. He blamed them. And, you know, there's going to be another debt ceiling that's going to come up again and again, and there will be a threat of a shutdown or default. And when that happens, the economy shrinks; people lose jobs."

A stop in the same Ohio city Obama visited, Columbus, was also on Romney's itinerary. For Romney to win Ohio, it would help if he could reduce the margin of victory Obama enjoyed in 2008 over Sen. John McCain in Franklin County, where Columbus resides. Obama won Franklin by 21 percentage points.

No Republican has won the White House without winning Ohio, which now accounts for 18 electoral votes. Recent polls virtually all give Obama the lead in the Buckeye State, though the size of his lead has narrowed appreciably.

Romney was scheduled to end the day with a rally in New Hampshire. As with Obama and Iowa, there was symbolism for Romney in bringing Monday to a close in the Granite State. He has long owned a summer home there. What's more, it was on a supporter's New Hampshire farm that in 2011 he officially kicked off this, his second race for the White House.

When the day started, journalists covering the Romney campaign were under the impression that Monday's late-night New Hampshire event would be the final stop of Romney's marathon effort.

But Romney campaign officials surprised many on Monday by adding two additional events for Election Day itself, stops in Cleveland and Pittsburgh. (Update @9:43 pm ET: The plan is for Romney to visit campaign offices in those two cities.)

Obama campaign officials indicated that they didn't intend to change their plans. Their last rally would be the one in Des Moines Monday evening. On Election Day, the plan was to have the president deliver get-out-the-vote messages via satellite TV. He would also engage in an Election Day ritual — playing basketball with friends.

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