Both presidential camps predict victory as voters flock to the polls

The Obama and Romney campaigns both projected confidence Tuesday as they turned up the pressure on their supporters to come out and vote on Election Day.  

Both sides unleashed their ground games in battleground states and predicted victory as the candidates sprinted through one last lap of campaigning.

The first round of polls close at 7 p.m. EST, and that includes the battleground state of Virginia.

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Polls close in Ohio — a state many believe could decide the election — at 7:30 p.m. North Carolina, another important swing state, also closes its polls then.

Several states close their polls at 8 p.m. (including Florida, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania) and at 9 p.m. (including Colorado, Michigan and Wisconsin). Iowa and Nevada are among the states that end voting at 10 p.m.

But it's unknown when those states will be called for a particular candidate. Polling has shown the race in several of those states to be neck and neck, indicating it could be a long night.

Romney spent Election Day making visits to Cleveland and Pittsburgh, while Obama did a series of television interviews with stations in the swing states of Iowa, Ohio, Colorado, Wisconsin, Florida, Nevada and Virginia. If the president wins three of those states, he will likely have the 270 electoral votes needed to win reelection.

In one radio interview, Obama invoked his 2008 victory in North Carolina — a state he won by only 14,000 votes over Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) — to try and drive his supporters to the polls.

“Do not think that your vote will not make a difference,” Obama said in an interview with syndicated radio host Michael Baisden. “When we won North Carolina last time, we won it by an average of five votes per precinct, which means that everybody who is listening right now, I know you can find five people who didn’t vote, who have not yet voted.”

Romney cast his vote in Belmont, Mass., on Tuesday morning after a breakfast of toast with peanut butter and honey, telling reporters he feels "very, very good" about his chances.

He then boarded a plane for Ohio, the state that could decide the election.

From Cleveland, Romney traveled to Pittsburgh, where he was greeted at the airport by hundreds of supporters lining the parking structure across from the airport.

"That's when you know you're going to win," Romney remarked to reporters when asked about the support.

From the airport, Romney traveled to the Green Tree campaign office in the Pittsburgh suburbs. According to pool reports, Romney spoke with the 30 volunteers making phone calls and encouraged them not to be negative as they contacted voters.

"[We] don't need to be disparaging of the other guy," Romney said. "The president has run a strong campaign, I believe he is a good man and wish him well, and his family well. He is a good father and has been a good example of a good father, but it is time for a new direction. It is a time for a better tomorrow."

As Romney entered the office, one woman started chanting "12 more hours" — a reference to supporters' cheers at recent rallies counting down the number of days until Election Day.

After the campaign stop in Pennsylvania, Romney will return back to Boston, where he plans to watch election returns.

While Obama spent part of the day in a pickup basketball game in Chicago with former body man Reggie Love, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and others, Vice President Biden made an impromptu stop in Ohio for lunch at a Cleveland diner. 

The campaigns offered different explanations for why Election Day would turn out in their favor. 

A senior Obama campaign official told The Hill the team feels "strong" about the outcome on Tuesday night. 

The aide said the early voting numbers are "good," particularly in Nevada, Iowa, Florida and North Carolina, and added that there was "strong turnout" in Columbus, Ohio; Dane County, Wis., and southern Florida.  

“No matter what you hear ... about turnout in Republican counties or exit polls, particularly early in the day, it’s important to remember that, because of early votes, we’ve banked hundreds of thousands of votes already,” another Obama campaign aide said.

The Republican side said an enthusiasm gap was working in its favor. Romney surrogate Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) predicted a win in Ohio and noted the big crowds that have greeted the Republican in recent days. 

“I got a good feel for it on the ground. I didn’t feel this in 2008, frankly,” Portman said on Fox News. “But we’ve got the momentum. Folks are really fired up. If you look at our crowds, you can see it.”

The Romney campaign said high turnout would bring decisive victories in the key swing states. 

“With a strong ground game in the states and momentum on our side, we are confident we will win this election,” said campaign spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg.

Obama senior campaign adviser David Axelrod touted the early-voting advantage and polls that show the president narrowly ahead or tied in the seven major battlegrounds of Ohio, Florida, Virginia, Iowa, Wisconsin, Colorado and New Hampshire.

“The greater encouragement comes from the cold, hard data, which is that early vote in every battleground state that has early vote has been very robust in our favor,” Axelrod said on CBS. “And the polling has been very much in our favor." 

Romney senior adviser Kevin Madden, however, said Obama’s early voter numbers have not been as robust as expected this year. He said high GOP turnout would cancel out whatever advantage the president might have.  

“Our high-propensity voters tend to come out on Election Day ... but nothing breeds organization like enthusiasm,” Madden said on CBS. “And the enthusiasm that we have seen all across this country in all these key battlegrounds states is really what is going to make the difference tonight.”

Obama is counting on his ground game, which has been in place since his 2008 run. Volunteers are operating out of more than 5,000 locations in battleground states. A campaign aide said that supporters have signed up for more than 208,000 Election Day shifts.

It does not appear that the weather will be a factor in swing-state voting, though northeastern Florida and North Carolina may see some rain later on Tuesday, according to The Weather Channel. 

In the Midwest, a cold front could bring some snow or rain to parts of Wisconsin and Iowa, but any precipitation will be light, the network's meteorologists predicted.

Both campaigns could be in for a long night if the national polling, which shows the race in a virtual tie, translates into tight margins in the battleground states.

Fittingly, the first election result of the day — in Dixville Notch, a small New Hampshire village that always votes at midnight — came back a 5-5 tie. 


—Daniel Strauss and Mario Trujillo contributed to this report.

This story was posted at 12:52 p.m. and last updated at 4:38 p.m.

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