Now it’s up to voters in historic US elections

November 3rd, 2008 - 3:25 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Nov 3 (DPA) After an historic 20 months of rallies, debates and countless commercials in the most expensive election campaign ever, voters will finally get their chance Tuesday to pick Democrat Barack Obama or Republican John McCain as the next US president.Across the country, state officials are preparing for record turnout and huge lines at polling stations, a testament to the massive interest that has been generated in an election widely considered the most important in recent memory.

McCain or Obama will become president in January in the midst of two wars, an economy tail-spinning into recession and a global financial system on the verge of collapse.

The world will be looking to the next president to rebuild a US reputation tarnished during the eight-year administration of President George W. Bush.

Some states are forecasting turnout of 80 to 90 percent. That compares with nearly 60 percent in 2004’s presidential election, which already had the highest participation rate since 1968.

“We will get closer to 100 percent turnout on election day this year than ever before,” said Doug Chapin of a non-partisan website run by the Pew Charitable Trust.

Tens of millions of people have already taken to the polls in recent weeks for early or absentee voting allowed in 31 states, including key battlegrounds Florida, North Carolina, Colorado and Nevada.

As many as 40 percent of voters are expected to have voted before Tuesday.

The election stands to make history regardless of which candidate wins Tuesday. McCain, at 72, would be the oldest president to begin a first term, while Obama, 47, would become the first African- American president.

Opinion polls continue to give Obama a significant edge over McCain in the run-up to Tuesday’s election.

The economic crisis, compounding Bush’s unpopularity, helped to lift Obama and his message of “change”.

An aggregate of major national polls compiled by gave Obama 50.7 percent to McCain’s 44.3 percent as of Sunday night. Of those heading to polling stations early, registered Democrats have outnumbered registered Republicans in some states by 2 to 1.

In an election climate stacked against the incumbent Republican Party, both Obama and McCain have promised change from what they call the failed policies of the last eight years.

McCain has leaned hard on his longtime reputation as a “maverick” unafraid to take on his own party in the US Senate, while touting his 26 years in Congress, military career and expertise in foreign policy as making him the safer choice.

Obama has consistently sought to link McCain with the Bush administration, and his campaign was given last-minute fodder when Vice President Dick Cheney said he was “delighted” to support McCain in a weekend speech in Wyoming.

Both Bush and Cheney have been otherwise absent from the campaign trail.

The looming recession has become the dominant force in the race since September, overshadowing major foreign policy issues like the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Iranian and North Korean nuclear activities, and a resurgent Russia.

But McCain’s campaign has vowed a comeback in the final days, pointing to polls that show as many as one in seven voters remain undecided.

Volunteers from both sides made millions of phone calls and knocked on millions of doors over the final weekend, while the campaigns made last-minute pleas for donations to mount massive television advertising.

Obama’s campaign has been fueled by an unprecedented fundraising prowess that comes mainly from small donors over the Internet.

Obama raised more than $600 million in the last 20 months, nearly twice as much as McCain, according to the Federal Election Commission.

Yet McCain’s campaign manager, Rick Davis, predicted that his side would outspend Democrats by $10 million in the final week.

For all the worldwide attention to the election, the outcome will come down to a handful of “swing states” under the winner-take-all electoral college.

Even a narrow victory in a state ensures the winner gets all of the electoral votes - the number depending on the state’s population.

Polls put Obama ahead in most of the usual major battlegrounds, including Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan. Demographic shifts have also helped Obama compete in some previously Republican regions, including southern states like Virginia and North Carolina and Western strongholds Colorado and Nevada.

Both candidates planned one final, furious day of campaigning across key states Monday. McCain was set for a seven-state tour that includes Florida, Nevada and Pennsylvania. Obama planned rallies in Florida, North Carolina and Virginia.

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