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Bush, Kerry battle to wire in tight race
Updated: 2004-11-02 09:03

US President Bush and Democratic Sen. John Kerry battled to an unpredictable finish on Monday, racing through a handful of crucial swing states in a hunt for the votes that could break open a deadlocked White House race.

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., raises his arms upon arriving at a rally in Detroit, Monday, Nov. 1, 2004. [AP]
At a series of rallies on a marathon final 16-hour day of campaigning before Tuesday's voting, Bush and Kerry fired up supporters and reached out to a dwindling band of undecided voters as poll after poll showed the race too close to call.

"The world is watching what you're going to do. All of the hopes and dreams of our country are on the line," Kerry told supporters in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Some polls found slight gains for Kerry in the final 24 hours, and a Reuters/Zogby poll showed Bush with a one-point lead, 48 percent to 47 percent. A crush of polls in key states like Ohio and Florida offered contradictory results, and none showed a decisive swing for either candidate.

Both campaigns expressed optimism and counted on vast get-out-the-vote operations to make the difference on Tuesday, when more than 100 million Americans will choose a leader for the next four years and set a course in the Iraq war, relationships with foreign allies and the economy.

Polls showed many Americans were not confident their votes would be recorded after the recount debacle in Florida in 2000, and worry over the election's uncertain outcome reined in gains in the stock markets. Oil prices fell as speculators bet on a Kerry win.

U.S. President George W. Bush gives a thumbs up as he takes to the stage at a campaign rally in Milwaukee, November 1, 2004. Bush and Democratic Sen. John Kerry are making a final push through a handful of crucial swing states today in a last-ditch hunt for the votes that could break open a deadlocked race for the White House. [Reuters]
Bush and Kerry feverishly worked the same battleground states, with Bush's departing Air Force One plane passing over Kerry's motorcade in Milwaukee as the Massachusetts senator headed into the city for a rally.

"You're going to turn out a big vote and we're going to carry Wisconsin," Bush told thousands of supporters in Milwaukee. "I'm excited about the Election Day. I'm optimistic about this country and our future."

Kerry tried to fire up his backers at a rain-soaked outdoor rally in Milwaukee and said they had 24 hours to finish the job of sending Bush back to Texas. "You do your job in the next 24 hours, until 8 o'clock tomorrow night, and I promise you help is on the way," Kerry said.


The size of the turnout could be critical in determining which candidate gets the 270 electoral votes needed to win, and has made an unpredictable race even harder to forecast.

More than 5 million Americans already had voted nationwide in states that allow early voting, and voting lines were long in the swing state of Florida again on Monday. Kerry aides, tracking party registration among early voters, said Democrats were outperforming Republican registrants.

Americans also will decide which party holds power in Congress and vote on governorships in 11 states on Tuesday, with Bush's Republicans favored to retain control of both the Senate and House of Representatives.

Bush hit Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Iowa and New Mexico before ending the day with a rally in Texas. Kerry rolled through Florida, Wisconsin, Michigan and Ohio, then doubled back for second stops in Ohio and Wisconsin.

Speaking to reporters at Pittsburgh International Airport ahead of a rally in Burgettstown, Pennsylvania, Bush said he was "energized" in the marathon stretch to the finish.

"I'm confident we're going to win," said Bush, adding: "The finish line is in sight and I just want to assure you I've got the energy and the optimism and the enthusiasm to cross the line."

In a bitter race dominated by the Iraq war and national security, Kerry once again tried to counter criticism he would be soft on security issues if he were elected president.

He framed the election as a choice between four more years of the same "failed policies" or a fresh start on the economy, jobs and national security.

"This is the choice, this is the moment of accountability for America," Kerry said.

Vice President Dick Cheney, back from a quick trip to Hawaii, rallied supporters in Colorado and Nevada, both states won by Bush in 2000 but where Kerry has threatened a win.

"Polls open bright and early tomorrow. I am asking every one of you for your vote, and to get your friends and your neighbors to come out as well," Cheney said in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Kerry's running mate, John Edwards, campaigned in Minnesota, Iowa and Ohio and told supporters that Tuesday "hope will arrive." 

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