Long lines have formed as polls open in Eastern states as Barack Obama’s bid to become the first black president faced the final test of his remarkable two-year journey Tuesday, while Republican John McCain pressed for an Election Day upset.
Ahmed Bowling, who lined up early waiting for a polling place in Alexandria, Va., to open at 6 a.m, said the election "will mark a significant change in the lives of all Americans, and so we do have to come out as early as possible to cast our votes."
The contest pitted the 47-year-old Obama, a first-term Illinois senator who rocketed to stardom on the power of his oratory and a call for change, against the 72-year-old McCain, a 26-year lawmaker known whose mettle was tested during 5 1/2 years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam.
"I’m feeling kind of fired up. I’m feeling like I’m ready to go," Obama told nearly 100,000 people gathered for his final rally Monday night in Virginia.
"At this defining moment in history, Virginia, you can give this country the change it needs," Obama said to voters in a state that hasn’t voted for a Democratic presidential nominee in 44 years.
The Illinois senator’s final day of campaigning was bittersweet: he was mourning the loss of his grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, who helped raise him but died of cancer Sunday night and never got to see the results of the historic election.
McCain completed a cross-country trek through seven battleground states before arriving at home in Phoenix early Tuesday morning.
"This momentum, this enthusiasm convinces me we’re going to win tomorrow," McCain told a raucous evening rally in Henderson, Nev. It was the fifth campaign stop in an 18-hour odyssey that took him across three time zones.
Obama planned a quick campaign stop in Indiana on Election Day before a massive outdoor rally in front of the skyline in his adopted hometown of Chicago. The day’s forecast was for an unseasonably warm 70 degrees.
McCain planned events in Colorado and New Mexico, then a party at the Biltmore Hotel in Phoenix.
Obama urged his supporters against overconfidence. "Even if it rains tomorrow, you can’t let that stop you. You’ve got to wait in line. You’ve got to vote," he said.
Beth Fouhy reported from Phoenix.