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President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney fight to the finish

President Barack Obamlooks crowd as he arrives speak campaign State Capitol Square Sunday Nov. 4 2012 Concord N.H. (AP Photo/Carolyn

President Barack Obama looks to the crowd as he arrives to speak at a campaign in the State Capitol Square, Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012, in Concord, N.H. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

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Updated: December 6, 2012 11:49AM



BEACHWOOD, Ohio — The contest between President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney is ending so close, I’m wondering if I should be booking a room for the Ohio recount.

Kidding aside, this has been a long, nasty slog, starting with the GOP primary last year.

It will end in a few hours.

Obama flies to Chicago tonight, and unlike 2008 — when it was clear he was going to beat Sen. John McCain — Tuesday will be tougher.

We’ll see if he continues his election day tradition of playing basketball — or if he will be using Tuesday exclusively to make turnout calls until polls close in the battleground states deciding who will be the next president. In 2008, Obama jetted over to an Indiana phone bank before hitting the gym in Chicago.

New polls from Pew Research and NBC/WSJ suggest that Obama has been bolstered by his handling of Hurricane Sandy. Battleground state surveys show a lean toward Obama — but are too close to call. The Columbus Dispatch on Sunday had Obama at 50 percent to 48 percent for Romney — a toss-up. CNN/ORC International on Sunday put the national number at 49 percent each for Obama and Romney.

Who will win? Turnout is the key.

I welcomed the Sunday morning email from Obama’s main SuperPAC — the one Mayor Rahm Emanuel is raising money for — because the message said “final ads” in the subject line. By the way, Politico reported a few days ago that Emanuel was calling unions asking for donations of “at least six-figures and in at least one case requested a union contribute $1 million.”

Toss-up Ohio, with 18 electoral votes, remains the top prize in the quest for 270 electoral votes to win the White House. The Obama and Romney teams — or their top surrogates — have been commuting here daily in the closing chapter of the contest.

The deadlocked rivals were working their base votes in the battleground states Sunday where an investment of their time may still make a difference. On Sunday, Obama visited Concord, N.H. — where he twined with former President Bill Clinton — then Hollywood, Fla., Cincinnati and a late night in Denver.

Romney was in Des Moines, Cleveland, Newport News, Va., and Morrisville, Pa.

Vice President Joe Biden and wife Jill and Rep. Paul Ryan also were in Ohio.

Romney and Obama close out their Ohio quest with rallies in Columbus on Monday a few hours apart — with Obama bringing with him Bruce Springsteen and Jay-Z.

This being the final Sunday before the election, and with polls open between 1 and 5 p.m., in Ohio, the Obama team was running its “souls to the polls” get-out-the vote-after-church program aimed at African Americans.

The closing stump speeches of Obama and Romney are instructive in that as the campaign has progressed, Romney, needing a snapping slogan, simply lifted one from Obama. Romney’s team even picked the same powder blue for their “real change” signs.

That Obama let his “hope and change” mantra of 2008 slip through his fingers — starting, lets say, with the rise of the Tea Party movement in 2009 — is understandable, since his 2008 campaign was aspirational. He had no record to defend.

On the final weekend of the campaign, Obama has been on the defensive over the change claim. Romney has been hitting him hard on that point. One of his most potent appeals — it seems to me — has been wooing disappointed 2008 Obama voters.

In Cleveland, Romney, who appeared with country music singer Rodney Atkins, said, “The question of this election comes down to this. Do you want four more years of the same, or do you want real change?

“Now, President Obama promised change but he couldn’t deliver it. I not only promise change, I have a record of achieving it.”

Obama, in Hollywood, Fla., said, “Governor Romney is a very talented salesman. So in this campaign, he’s tried as hard as he can to repackage these old ideas that didn’t work and pretend that they’re new ideas, and he’s offering them up as change. But here’s the thing, Florida. We know what change looks like.”

Said Obama, “What Governor Romney is offering ain’t it.”



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