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Last calls for White House campaign trains

Barack Obama and challenger Mitt Romney toured select battleground states one last time, before voters in the US elect the next president on Tuesday. After 18 months of campaigning, there are only hours to go.

Polls in the US suggest that Tuesday's presidential election will go down to the wire between Democrat incumbent Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney. The two candidates took to the campaign trail once again on Monday, encouraging their supporters in some of the crucial swing states likely to decide the outcome.

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US campaign enters home stretch

When all combined, either Obama, Romney and their campaign surrogate wives or vice presidential candidates were scheduled to appear in Ohio, Iowa, Virginia, Colorado, Wisconsin, Nevada, Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire in the final 24 hours of campaigning.

"We need every single vote in Florida," Romney said at a rally in the quintessential swing state, the famous site of the disputed election result of 2000, calling on supporters to knock on doors and make last-gasp phone calls. "We ask you to stay at it all the way to victory on Tuesday night."

"Ultimately, it's up to you," Obama said at a New Hampshire rally ahead of the vote. "You have the power. You will be shaping decisions for this country for decades to come right now, in the next two days."

Whistle-stop tours

Romney's Monday schedule allowed for appearances in Florida, then Virginia, before key state Ohio and finally his campaign base in New Hampshire.

At a rally in a packed Manchester sports arena, Romney told supporters that he was promising "real change" if elected.

Obama, meanwhile, visited Wisconsin, Ohio and Iowa, where more than 20,000 people attended his final outdoor rally. He later traveled to his hometown Chicago to follow the vote itself.

While most polls have the candidates either locked together or barely separated in the popular vote, Obama is polling slightly ahead in the swing states, prompting cautious early optimism from his re-election team.

The US election is not decided by the popular vote but rather state-by-state. Winning the popular vote in a state, even by a small margin, usually affords a candidate all of that state's "votes" in the Electoral College. A candidate needs 270 of these votes - allocated to states based on their population - to take the White House.

Excluding the swing states, Obama looked to have a hold of 243 votes to Romney's 206, meaning the challenger will need to perform strongly in the battleground states to prevail.

msh,dr/mz (AFP, dpa)

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