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Obama set to make voting history

But the McCain campaign, fighting to the end in key states, vows it’ll be a ‘slam-bang’ finish.

By Staff writer / November 3, 2008

Determined to vote: Altanese Johnson waited in line to vote early Saturday in Miramar, Fla. Records are likely to be broken, certainly among voters who cast ballots ahead of Election Day.

Pat Carter/AP

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Washington

On the eve of the historic 2008 presidential election, Illinois Democrat Barack Obama appears poised to win.

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Both nationally and in polls of many battleground states, Senator Obama holds a steady lead, comfortably outside the margin of error. Just adding up the states that polls show are solidly in Obama’s column and those leaning in his direction, he has 278 electoral votes, more than the 270 needed to win the presidency, versus 132 for Republican John McCain. The more likely scenario, with Obama competitive in more than a dozen states won by Republican President Bush four years ago, gives Obama well over 300 electoral votes on Tuesday.

“At this point, John McCain probably can’t win without divine intervention,” writes Charles Cook, editor of a nonpartisan political newsletter.

A look at where the two candidates campaigned on the final day tells the story: Obama was on offense, slated to appear only in states won by Bush four years ago: Florida, North Carolina, and Virginia. McCain played mostly defense, appearing in Ohio, Florida, Nevada, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, and McCain’s home state of Arizona. Of those, only one – Pennsylvania – voted for Democrat John Kerry four years ago.

Bush’s victory map from 2004, totaling 286 electoral votes, gives McCain little room for error. Iowa already appears well out of reach for McCain, and he trails in Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada. With 21 electoral votes, Pennsylvania has become a must-win state for McCain.

On RealClearPolitics.com, which calculates the averages of recent polls, Obama is ahead in Pennsylvania by 7.6 percentage points and in Ohio by 4.3 percent. In modern history, no Republican has won the presidency without winning Ohio.

On Sunday, McCain’s campaign team argued vigorously that the senator from Arizona can come back, pointing to selective polls – and the campaign’s own internal polling – that show all is not lost. Appearing on Fox News Sunday, McCain campaign manager Rick Davis noted that the Mason-Dixon polling firm now shows McCain ahead in Ohio by two points and up by only four points in Pennsylvania.

“I think that what we’re in for is a slam-bang finish, I mean, it’s going to be wild,” said Mr. Davis. “I think that we are able to close this campaign. John McCain may be the greatest closer politician of all time.”

Also speaking on Fox News Sunday, Obama campaign manager David Plouffe presented an alternate scenario. He says that the Democrats’ big registration push in Pennsylvania – where there are now 1.2 million more registered Democrats than Republicans – gives Obama a decisive edge there. He also predicted a higher national turnout than the 130 million voters the McCain has forecasted, which itself would beat the record 122 million voters who turned out four years ago.

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