Obama takes early lead; close tussle in battleground states

November 5th, 2008 - 10:05 am ICT by IANS  

Barack ObamaWashington, Nov 5 (IANS) As the epic electoral battle between Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain for the keys to the White House drew towards its finale, the two rivals were running close in key battleground states.As the polls closed in more than half the United States, Obama, who has consistently led in most opinion polls, was projected to capture the battleground state of Pennsylvania, giving him a crucial early advantage over McCain.

In his quest for the magic 270 electoral votes needed for an upset victory, McCain had been counting on winning Pennsylvania that has voted for Democrats in the last four elections to offset any victories by Obama in Republican states.

Obama was projected to have also won at least nine other states and the capital city of Washington, all of which had backed the Democratic nominee John Kerry in 2004. McCain was expected to win at least four - Kentucky, South Carolina, Oklahoma and Tennessee

But neither candidate has yet taken a state that was won by the opposing party in 2004 with the two rivals battling fairly evenly in Ohio, Florida, Virginia, North Carolina and Indiana.

Turnout appeared to be high in many parts of the country. Lines of voters formed at polling places as early as 4 a.m. in many states with reports that turnout in Ohio might approach 80 percent of registered voters.

Early surveys of voters, conducted by a consortium of news organisations, indicated 60 percent listed the economy as their most important issue, with no other issue - including the war on Iraq and terrorism - getting more than 10 percent.

More than 80 percent of voters said they were very worried the current economic crisis will harm their family’s finances over the next year, but 47 percent also said they felt the economy will improve in the next year. Two-thirds said they were worried about obtaining health care.

Only 28 percent of those polled said they approved of Bush’s job performance - an issue Obama hammered on throughout the campaign as he tried to tie McCain to Bush.

There were sporadic long lines reported at polling places around the country. In Columbus, Ohio, there were short lines or no lines at most polling places after a burst of early morning voting.

Democrats voted in larger numbers than Republicans in North Carolina, Colorado, Florida and Iowa, all of which went for Bush in 2004.

Obama, accompanied by his wife, Michelle, and their two daughters, Malia, 10, and Sasha, 7, was the first of the two presidential hopefuls to vote. He marked a long paper ballot at Chicago’s Beulah Shoesmith Elementary School as his daughters looked on.

“I feel great, and it was fun. I had a chance to vote with my daughters,” Obama told reporters. “I feel really good.”

Asked whether he was feeling sentimental, Obama replied, “You know, I’m sure I will tonight - that’s when polls close.”

He then flew to neighbouring Indiana to work the get-out-the-vote phones at an Indianapolis union hall. He planned to end Tuesday with an election night rally at Chicago’s Grant Park.

McCain, who voted at a church in Phoenix, stepped out of a sport-utility vehicle with his wife, Cindy, as a small crowd cheered, “Go, John, go!” and “We love you!”

They walked into the church, cast their ballots and left within minutes, avoiding any lines. The senator signed a poster and gave the thumbs-up sign before leaving without speaking to reporters.

McCain then flew to Grand Junction, Colorado, to address a cheering crowd. “I feel the momentum. I feel it, and you feel it,” he told the crowd. “And we’re going to win this election. We’re going to be up late tonight.” He planned an election night rally in Phoenix.

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