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Suspense to the end, both tickets in Cleveland
“We can make sure that we make even greater progress going forward in putting folks back to work and making sure that they’ve got decent take-home pay, making sure that they have the health insurance that they need, making sure we’re protecting Medicare and Social Security,” Mr. Obama said in an interview broadcast Tuesday on “The Steve Harvey Morning Show.” ”All those issues are on the ballot, and so I’m hoping that everybody takes this seriously.”
Mr. Romney argued that Mr. Obama has had his chance to help Americans financially and blew it.
“If it comes down to economics and jobs, this is an election I should win,” Mr. Romney told WTAM.
With both sides keeping up the onslaught of political ads in battleground states right into Election Day, on one thing, at least, there was broad agreement: “I am ready for it to be over,” said nurse Jennifer Walker in Columbus, Ohio.
It wasn’t just the presidency at stake Tuesday: Every House seat, a third of the Senate and 11 governorships were on the line, along with state ballot proposals on topics ranging from gay marriage and casino gambling to repealing the death penalty and legalizing marijuana. Democrats were defending their majority in the Senate, and Republicans doing likewise in the House, raising the prospect of continued partisan wrangling in the years ahead no matter who might be president.
If past elections are any guide, a small but significant percentage of voters won’t decide which presidential candidate they’re voting for until Tuesday. Four percent of voters reported making up their minds on Election Day in 2008, and the figure was 5 percent four years earlier, according to exit polls. At Washington-Lee High School in Arlington, Va., hundreds of voters were in line shortly after the polls opened at 6 a.m. and had to wait more than an hour to cast their ballot.
The forecast for Election Day promised dry weather for much of the country, with rain expected in two battlegrounds, Florida and Wisconsin. But the closing days of the campaign played out against ongoing recovery efforts after superstorm Sandy. Election officials in New York and New Jersey scrambled to marshal generators, move voting locations, shuttle storm victims to polling places and take other steps to ensure everyone who wanted to vote could do so.
In New York City, authorities planned to run shuttle buses every 15 minutes Tuesday in storm-slammed areas to take voters to the polls. In Ocean County, along the New Jersey coast, officials hired a converted camper to bring mail-in ballots to shelters in Toms River, Pemberton and Burlington Township.
“This is the happiest vote I ever cast in my life,” said Annette DeBona as she voted for Mr. Romney in Point Pleasant Beach, N.J. The 73-year-old restaurant worker was so worried about not being able to vote that she called the police department several days in advance, as well as her church, to make absolutely sure she knew where to go and when.
Renee Kearney of Point Pleasant Beach said she felt additional responsibility to vote this Election Day. The 41-year-old project manager for an information technology company planned all along to vote for Mr. Obama, but she said her resolve was strengthened by his response to Sandy.
“It feels extra important today because you have the opportunity to influence the state of things right now, which is a disaster,” Ms. Kearney said.
Election Day came early for more than a third of Americans, who cast ballots days or even weeks in advance.
An estimated 46 million ballots, or 35 percent of the 133 million expected to be cast, were projected to be early ballots, according to Michael McDonald, an early-voting expert at George Mason University who tallies voting statistics for the United States Elections Project. None of those ballots was being counted until Tuesday.
Mr. Obama, who voted 12 days early, was sure to observe his Election Day ritual of playing pickup basketball with friends and close advisers. The one time he skipped the tradition, he lost the New Hampshire primary in 2008.
“We won’t make that mistake again,” senior adviser Robert Gibbs said.
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