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Americans to Decide President with Obama Leading McCain
Barack Obama with his wife Michelle Obama

Americans began voting on Nov.4 to decide who will lead the nation for the next four years, with Democratic Sen. Barack Obama maintaining a solid edge over his Republican contender, Sen. John McCain.

If elected, Obama, 47, a first-time senator from Illinois, will enter the White House as the first black president in U.S. history. It will also be the first time the Democrats have returned to power in eight years.

Whoever wins the election faces the daunting task of repairing the economy, damaged by the U.S. subprime mortgage meltdown, which has also sent global financial markets into a tailspin and taken a toll on some major financial institutions.

On the eve of the election, Obama and McCain, 72, a veteran senator from Arizona, blitzed some of the battleground states where the election will be won or lost, before heading to their home states.

Obama told supporters in Jacksonville, Florida, that he is ready to become president and bring change after eight years of George W. Bush's leadership.

"After decades of broken politics in Washington, eight years of failed policies from George Bush, and 21 months of a campaign that has taken us from the rocky coast of Maine to the sunshine of California, we are one day away from change in America,"' he said.

At a rally in Tampa, Florida, McCain indicated he was hopeful he can pull off a historic upset.

"The pundits have written us off just like they've done before and my opponent is measuring the drapes in the White House," he said. "The pundits may not know it and the Democrats may not know it, but 'the Mac' is back. We're going to win this election."

The final pre-election Gallup poll, published Monday, showed Obama enjoying a wide lead of 11 percentage points over McCain, 55 percent to 44 percent. Most other polls also give Obama a comfortable edge.

The most competitive states are Florida, Indiana, Missouri, North Carolina, Nevada and Ohio. The campaigns also are getting fierce in other states, including Iowa, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Colorado and Virginia.

In their election campaigns, Obama and McCain traded barbs on issues ranging from the troubled economy and healthcare to the war in Iraq and the fight against terrorism.

Obama often connected McCain with Bush, saying the Arizona senator's policies would extend Bush's legacy of financial crisis and endless war in Iraq.

McCain, for his part, denounced the Illinois senator for wanting to raise taxes to implement what McCain called liberal policies and tried to distance himself from the Republican incumbent.

Americans will vote in 51 separate elections in each state and the District of Columbia. States are apportioned electoral votes according to the size of their population and in most cases the winner of a state's popular vote gets all its electoral votes. A candidate who gains 270 electoral votes wins the White House. (Kyodo News)






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