WASHINGTON — Democrat Barack Obama, saying he felt “peaceful” as polls found him poised to win election Tuesday as the nation’s next president — and to become the first African-American to win the office — battled John McCain across crucial swing states Monday as both candidates made last-ditch bids for support.
A record turnout was expected Tuesday to pick the 44th president of the United States, with Republican McCain trying to pull off what would arguably be the biggest presidential upset since Harry S Truman beat Thomas Dewey 60 years ago.
As they dueled across Florida, Virginia and other battleground states, Obama alternated between being cocky and cautious, while McCain was feisty and eager to fight.
Obama’s day turned somber in the afternoon, though, as he got word that his grandmother Madelyn Dunham had died. He’d interrupted his campaign late last month for a final visit with Dunham, who’d raised him, in Hawaii.
“She was the cornerstone of our family, and a woman of extraordinary accomplishment, strength and humility. She was the person who encouraged and allowed us to take chances,” Obama said in a joint statement with his half-sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng.
In North Carolina, Obama called Dunham “one of those quiet heroes that we have all across America who, they’re not famous, their names aren’t in the newspapers, but each and every day they work hard, they look after their families, they sacrifice for their children and their grandchildren. They aren’t seeking the limelight. All they try to do is just do the right thing.”
Obama, like McCain, spent most of Monday campaigning on familiar themes. McCain pledged to keep taxes low; Obama said he would change Bush administration policies on the economy and the Iraq war.
“We are one day away from changing the United States of America,” Obama told a crowd of about 9,100 at Jacksonville’s Veterans Memorial Arena.
McCain was on the other side of the too-close-to-call state, trying to win its 27 electoral votes by starting a 20-hour, seven-state sprint in Tampa.
Though his talk drew only about 1,100 people — far fewer than he’d attracted at a midnight rally in Miami — the Arizona senator was pumped up by his morning reception.
“One day left, just one day left before we take America in a new direction, my friends. We need your help, we need your help and we will win,” he said.
Florida was the biggest swing-state prize. However, it was a measure of Obama’s strength that states such as Indiana and Virginia, which haven’t given their electoral votes to a Democrat since 1964, and North Carolina, which last went Democratic in 1976, also were getting lots of last-minute attention.
Nationally, the Illinois senator had a 7.4 percentage-point lead, according to an average of 13 surveys taken in the past week, according to RealClearPolitics.com.