By Amie Parnes and Justin Sink - 11/06/12 10:35 PM EST
Hours before voting is scheduled to close in six states — including the key swing state of Virginia — both the Obama and Romney campaigns projected confidence about an outcome polls suggest will be razor-tight.
Republican Mitt Romney spent Election Day visiting campaign offices in Cleveland and Pittsburgh in a bid to push the key state of Ohio into his column and win over Pennsylvania, a state that hasn’t voted for a GOP presidential candidate since 1988.
Obama himself conducted television interviews with stations in Iowa, Ohio, Colorado, Wisconsin, Florida, Nevada and Virginia. Wins in three of those states would be enough to give Obama more than the 270 votes needed to win the Electoral College — assuming he doesn’t lose Pennsylvania.
Romney’s camp touted enthusiasm and strong Election Day voting in Ohio and other states in explaining their confidence.
The GOP nominee was greeted at Pittsburgh’s airport by hundreds of supporters. “That's when you know you're going to win,” Romney remarked to reporters when asked about the support.
Obama’s campaign touted an early-voting advantage, a lead in state polls and its ground game in predicting a good night.
Virginia could give early indications on which side is right.
Obama became the first Democrat since Lyndon Johnson in 1964 to win Virginia, and his ground operation from that campaign is still in place. Romney believes the rocky national economy and the Republicans' own turn-out-the-vote efforts will put him over the top in the crucial state.
Volunteers for Obama 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.
Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, South Carolina and Vermont are the other states where polls close at 7. Romney is a heavy favorite in all but Vermont, which Obama is expected to win. The president won Indiana in 2008, but is well behind Romney in polls there in this cycle.
Polls close at 7:30 in what is possibly the most important battleground state in this election — Ohio. Polls also close at that time in North Carolina, a state that is leaning toward Romney but that the Obama campaign believes it could still win.
At 8 p.m., polls close in Florida, which with 29 electoral votes is the biggest swing state. Recent polling suggests Romney is the favorite, but surveys have been close and an Obama win here would likely seal the election.
Polls also close at 8 in New Hampshire and Pennsylvania. They close at 9 p.m. in the swing states of Colorado and Wisconsin, and at 10 p.m. in the swing states of Iowa and Nevada.
Exit polling will be available for several states shortly after polls close, even if the state hasn't been officially called for one candidate or another.
Obama deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter warned reporters on Monday that they "need to stay calm" on Tuesday, pointing out: “We’ve already banked a pretty big portion of our vote.
"No matter what you hear tomorrow about turnout in Republican counties or exit polls, particularly early in the day, please remember and remind your readers that, because of early votes, we’re where we need to be to win," she said. "I don’t think there’s going to be official exits until the end of the day, but if things leak out that aren’t validated or weighted, please stay calm.”
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.
Republicans, meanwhile, said they were excited by early-voting patterns in the crucial state of Ohio, claiming there are turnout decreases in Obama strongholds and more votes lodged at precincts won by John McCain in 2008. In Athens County, home of Ohio University and a district where the president took two out of every three votes, turnout was down 10 percent from 2008. Meanwhile, the GOP said that voting was significantly outpacing last election in the eastern Cleveland suburbs, considered GOP territory. Romney visited the area Tuesday afternoon, stopping at a campaign headquarters and Wendy's for lunch.
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 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-voting 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.”
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.