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Obama, Romney cap election eve with rallies in states that launched them

 

Updated 11:27 a.m. - President Barack Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney returned Monday evening to the states that launched their respective bids for the presidency, wrapping their campaigning ahead of Election Day. 

Joined by their spouses, Obama returned to Iowa -- where he won the 2008 caucuses -- and Romney stopped in New Hampshire -- where he won the primary at the beginning of this year -- to bring to an end their long, hard battle over whom Americans would select as their president for the next four years. 

"I've come back to Iowa one more time to ask for your vote," a visibly emotional Obama told a crowd near his first campaign office in Des Moines. "Because this is where our movement for change began. Right here."

"It's out of my hands now," he said. "It's up to you."

Emmanuel Dunand / AFP - Getty Images

Mitt Romney holds a rally at Orlando Sanford international airport in Orlando, Fla., Nov. 5, 2012.

Both Obama and Romney seemed to drink in the adulation of their supporters in the closing hours of the campaign, before voters would take to the polls in fewer than 12 hours to render their verdict on the election.

"This is a special moment for Ann and for me, because this is where our campaign began," Romney said to a crowd in New Hampshire. "Your primary vote put me on the path to win the Republican nomination, and tomorrow your votes and your work here in New Hampshire will help me become the next president of the United States."

The stops mostly concluded the campaigning of the 2012 election. Romney was set to make stops Tuesday in Cleveland and Pittsburgh, and Republican vice presidential nominee would also stop in Cleveland and Richmond. Those stops, though, were billed as less formal than the giant, raucous rallies that have dominated the candidates' schedules in the closing days of the campaign.

Obama and Romney capped what was a "barnburner" final day of campaigning, as he and Romney hop-scotched across the country to make stops in the states on which they're relying tomorrow.

Ryan launches campaign 'barnburner' in Obama-leaning Nevada

So far, more than 4.5 million Floridians have already voted, sometimes after waiting in hours-long lines. NBC's Mark Potter reports.

Romney made a four-state tour through Florida, Virginia and Ohio – states that are critical to his hopes of becoming president – before concluding in New Hampshire, the cornerstone of Romney’s victory in the GOP presidential primary earlier this year, and the state neighboring Massachusetts, where Romney served as governor and his campaign is now headquartered.

Both sides agree, winning Colorado could be key. A recent NBC/WSJ/Marist poll had the race tied at 48 percent each. NBC's Mike Taibbi reports.

The president spent the day visiting Wisconsin, Iowa and Ohio -- the states composing his Midwestern "firewall," where he's sought to build an advantage over Romney.

Their schedules, coming on the heels of a jam-packed weekend of campaigning across the country by both the candidates and their surrogates, was nothing short of a “barnburner,” as Ryan put it at first rally of the day, in Nevada.

“We're doing a barnburner today,” Ryan said in the state, which is seen as leaning toward Obama in NBC News’ battleground map. “We are crisscrossing the country – Mitt and I are because we are asking you to work with us, to stand with us to get our country back on the right track.”

Both Obama and Romney stuck to well-worn scripts that they had used throughout the frenetic final days of the campaign. The candidates at times seemed to acknowledge that much of the campaign’s outcome might be out of their hands, pleading with supporters to sway a winnowing number of swing voters over to their cause.

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“Your voices are being heard all over the nation loud and clear, thank you,” Romney said in Virginia. “I also want to thank many of you in this crowd that have been out there working on the campaign – making calls from the victory centers, and by putting up a yard sign, in your neighbor’s yard and maybe convincing a coworker to vote for Paul Ryan and me.”

Obama kicked off his first rally of the day with rocker Bruce Springsteen, who would hitch a ride with the president to Columbus for an afternoon rally, which was also to feature rapper Jay-Z.

"I get to fly around with him on the last day I'll ever campaign, so that's not a bad way to end things," he said of Springsteen, who will accompany Obama to Columbus, Ohio, on Air Force One.

The state with 13 electoral votes could go either way in this election, and may play a critical role in determining not only the next president, but also which party will control the U.S. Senate. NBC's Tom Costello reports.

Both Obama and Romney’s schedules, though, sent a powerful signal about their fundamental strategy for Election Day.

The states Romney is visiting, for instance, are virtually essential for his hopes come Tuesday. Failing to win Florida, for instance, would force Romney to have to win every single other remaining battleground state.

Obama’s stops, meanwhile, suggested attentiveness to his so-called “firewall,” which Republicans have argued is cracking amid surging Republican enthusiasm in battleground states.

Reuters, Getty Images

Campaigning with Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, voting and election results.

Vice President Joe Biden, during a stop at a cafe in Sterling, Va., predicted the bloc would hold.

“I think we’ll win Ohio, I think we’ll win Wisconsin, I think we’ll win Iowa. I think we’ll win Nevada, I think we’ll win new Hampshire,” he told reporters. He added that Florida would be “close,” but said he thought “have a real shot of winning” the Sunshine State.

As they made their final arguments to sprawling crowds throughout the day, both Romney and Obama got an assist from additional superstars who entertained audiences before rallies had begun.

Larry Downing / Reuters

Supporters hold a sign as President Barack Obama speaks at a campaign event at Fifth Third Arena at the University of Cincinnati, Nov. 4, 2012.

Obama was traveling with Springsteen and Jay-Z on Monday, but Katy Perry and John Mellencamp had played before other Obama audiences over the weekend. Romney’s rally on Monday in Ohio was also slated to feature the Marshall Tucker Band.

Both Springsteen and Jay Z each did special songs for the Obama campaign, in Jay Z's case, changing an epithet in one of his songs to reference Romney instead.

"If you're having world problems, I feel bad for you son," he said, "I got 99 problems, but Mitt ain't one."

In the past six presidential elections, Wisconsin has been reliably blue – but this year, thanks to Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan, the race is much tighter. NBC's Ron Mott reports.