Obama, Romney make last-minute pleas in close race

LYNCHBURG, Va. (AP) — President Barack Obama

and Republican Mitt Romney made last-minute pleas for votes Monday,

employing

their last vestiges of energy, celebrity boosters and plenty of

jet fuel to encourage every supporter and the few remaining

undecideds to tip the 2012 election in their favor.

National polls of the eve of Election Day showed a neck-and-neck race. But the winner will be determined by which man gets

270 electoral votes, and Obama had more paths to get there.

Ohio looms large in both of their victory

plans — it was the only state both candidates were visiting Monday. And

Romney's

campaign announced in the afternoon that the GOP nominee would

come back on Election Day for a rally in the Cleveland area.

Romney also planned a Tuesday stop in the Pittsburgh area.

The incumbent and the challenger, both fighting weariness and a hoarse voice, closed by arguing they could do more to lead

the country out of the tough economic times that dominated Obama's term. "This nation is going to begin to change for the

better tomorrow," Romney said.

"Our work is not yet done," Obama told nearly 20,000 people who filled the street in front of the Wisconsin capital building.

Both men campaigned in states they need to win. Romney was in Florida, Virginia, and New Hampshire, while Obama was trying

to protect Wisconsin from a late-breaking GOP challenge before heading to Iowa.

And in an indication of just how all-important Ohio was once again to the future occupancy of the White House, both candidates

planned to be on the ground in Columbus in the evening for dueling rallies several hours and seven miles apart. The state

has gone for the winner in every presidential election since 1964.

While Romney added more campaigning for Tuesday, Obama spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the president would stay in Chicago for

his election night rally and reach swing-state voters through a series of radio and television interviews.

Both candidates were also hoping to benefit

from some star power. Romney planned a final rally in the day's final

hour in

New Hampshire with Kid Rock while country rock performers The

Marshall Tucker Band was joining him in Columbus. Obama had

actors Samuel L. Jackson and Chris Rock doing urban radio

interviews, "Mad Men" star Jon Hamm making calls in Colorado, rapper

Jay-Z joining him in Columbus and rock legend Bruce Springsteen as

his traveling warm-up act.

"He promised me a ride on Air Force One," Springsteen said, strumming his guitar as he made a political pitch between songs.

The rivals planned to appeal to pro football fans in the eleventh hour, taping interviews with ESPN's Chris Berman that will

air during halftime of the Monday Night Football game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the New Orleans Saints.

Both candidates predicted the winner will be determined by which of their operations can get the most supporters to the polls.

"This is going to be a turnout election," the president declared in an interview broadcast early Monday as he pleaded with

urban radio listeners to get to the polls.

On the edge of an airport runway in

Lynchburg, Va., Romney called on his supporters to "make sure we get

everyone we know

out to vote on Election Day." ''Every single vote," he said,

speaking within view of Liberty University and after its chancellor

Jerry Falwell Jr. rallied the conservative faithful in the crowd.

Obama raised the possibility of defeat as he pleaded with listeners of The Rickey Smiley Morning Show to get to the polls.

"If we don't turn out the vote, we could lose a lot of the gains we've already made," Obama said.

It was one of two of the president's radio

interviews airing Monday aimed at turning out minority voters, the other

with a

Spanish-language station in Ohio. The president is relying on

black and Hispanic voters to help offset Romney's lead with

white men in particular, but the risk for him is that some of

those key supporters aren't as motivated to vote as they were

in 2008.

"Four years ago, we had incredible turnout and I know people were excited and energized about the prospect of making history,"

Obama said. "We have to preserve the gains we've made and keep moving forward."

A final national NBC/Wall Street Journal

Poll showed Obama getting the support of 48 percent of likely voters,

with Romney

receiving 47 percent. A Washington Post-ABC News tracking poll had

Obama at 49 and Romney at 48. A Pew Research Center poll

released Sunday showed Obama with a 3-point-point edge over

Romney, 48 percent to 45 percent among likely voters.

Obama dispatched former President Bill

Clinton to Pennsylvania on Monday to keep the state in his column. First

lady Michelle

Obama went south to North Carolina and Florida. Vice President Joe

Biden made a final reach in Virginia, while Romney running

mate Paul Ryan was covering the most ground, flying to Nevada,

Colorado, Iowa, Virginia and Wisconsin.

The hunt for swing voters was so

concentrated that Biden and Romney crossed paths in northern Virginia,

the vice president's

motorcade pulling past Romney's plane on the tarmac at Dulles

International Airport as the GOP nominee prepared to leave the

aircraft. Stopping for lunch at Mimi's Cafe in nearby Sterling,

Va., Biden confidently predicted: "It's all over but the shouting."

Meanwhile, about 30 million people have

already voted in 34 states and the District of Columbia, either by mail

or in person,

although no ballots will be counted until Election Day, Tuesday.

More than 4 million of the ballots were cast in Florida,

where Democrats filed a lawsuit demanding an extension of

available time. A judge granted their request in one county where

an early voting site was shut down for several hours Saturday

because of a bomb scare.