After nearly $2 billion in spending, scores of attacks and counterattacks, hundreds of campaign stops and more ads than most anyone could count, the 2012 presidential race is finally - and many would say mercifully - coming to an end.
But it's not quite there yet: The two major party candidates, exhausted though they may be, will spend all day Monday making last-minute appeals in battleground states. And where they've chosen to go during the home stretch highlights what polls show to be a
Both candidates made it to four states on Sunday to rally supporters: President Obama was in New Hampshire, Florida, Ohio and Colorado, while Mitt Romney traveled to Iowa, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia.
It's no surprise that both men stopped in Ohio, the most fiercely-contested battleground state in the nation. Both candidates have visited the Buckeye State more than any other: Mr. Obama has campaigned there 22 times, including Monday's planned stop, and Mr. Romney has campaigned or will campaign there 25 times.
Why so much focus on Ohio? Because both candidates have a far easier path to the 270 electoral votes necessary to win the White House if they secure it. For Romney, in particular, Ohio's 18 electoral votes are crucial. If Mr. Obama wins Ohio as well as Nevada, which looks likely to break for the president, he will be just nine electoral votes short of what he needs for reelection - assuming he takes all the states he is expected to win.
Without Ohio, Romney would need a near sweep of the remaining battlegrounds to take the White House; polls suggest he holds a clear lead in just one of those states, North Carolina. Two polls out over the weekend, meanwhile, showed Mr. Obama with a five point lead in Iowa, where a victory would give the president another six electoral votes. (The remaining battleground states, : Colorado, Florida, New Hampshire, Virginia and Wisconsin. Polls suggest the first four are effectively tossups; Mr. Obama has been polling slightly ahead in Wisconsin, which boasts 10 electoral votes.) Most recent polls have found Mr. Obama with a small lead in Ohio, though a Columbus Dispatch survey out Sunday suggested the two candidates are effectively tied.
There is one state the Romney campaign seems to be hoping will rewrite the Ohio-or-bust calculus: Pennsylvania. For most of the campaign, polls showed Mr. Obama with a clear lead in the state, and the Romney campaign largely ignored it. But buoyed by a poll last week suggesting the state's 20 electoral votes are within Romney's reach, the Romney campaign and the outside groups supporting it poured money into the Keystone State.
While Pennsylvania remains a relative long shot for Romney, his decision to stop in the state Sunday, during the precious final days of the campaign, is a signal that the investment may be more than just a head fake. The Romney camp has also said it is fighting for two other states where he faces long odds - Michigan and Minnesota - though the fact that Romney himself is not visiting either during the home stretch suggests he is most focused on Pennsylvania. The campaign did dispatch Romney's running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, to Minnesota on Sunday.
"The people of America understand we're taking back the White House because we're going to win Pennsylvania," Romney said at a rally in Morrisville Sunday evening. The Obama campaign has portrayed Romney's Pennsylvania play as a "Hail Mary" tied to his inability to lock down the more contested battlegrounds.
Romney continued to push his message Sunday that Mr. Obama deserves to be voted out because he had failed to sufficiently bring the economy back from the 2008 financial crisis; in
"We're Americans. We can do anything," Romney said in Iowa Sunday. "The only thing that stands between us and some of the best years we can imagine is a lack of leadership , and that's why we have elections."