CINCINNATI (AP) — The final campaign blitz hit the presidential battleground of Ohio on Sunday as the main candidates made stops throughout the state while volunteers tried feverishly to persuade residents to their side and get them to vote early.
In Cleveland, Republican Mitt Romney told a crowd of about 6,000 people that it’s possible but not likely that Obama will win, saying the president has fallen short on his promises.
“Talk is cheap,” Romney said. “But a record is real, and it’s earned with real effort. Change is not measured in words you speak, change is measured in achievement.”
At University of Cincinnati’s packed basketball arena Sunday night, President Barack Obama spoke to about 13,500 people.”
“I need you, Ohio!” Obama said repeatedly to the roaring crowd. “And if you’re willing to work with me, and knock on some doors with me and you’re willing to early vote for me, make some phone calls for me, turn out for me, we’ll win Ohio, we’ll win this election!”
Musician Stevie Wonder got the crowd excited before Obama spoke and closed out his speech with “Signed, Sealed, Delivered.”
Throughout the day, activist and faith-based groups canvassed door-to-door and held “souls to the polls” events to transport voters from churches to early-voting sites, where people in some of the most populous counties stood in long lines in the cold to cast their ballots.
The county elections boards in Cincinnati and Columbus said anyone already in line by the 5 p.m. closing time would still be able to vote but warned that late arrivals would be turned away.
At the Hamilton County Board of Elections in downtown Cincinnati, hundreds of voters waited in an hours-long line that snaked around a city block on a chilly and breezy day.
Some read books while they waited, others made friends with strangers and joked around, and while many complained about the long wait, they stayed.
“I just had a good, upbeat spirit and I feel like I’m making a difference. Those things kept me warm,” said Danielle Benning, a 40-year-old Cincinnati resident. “I feel great to be in a battleground state where we can make a difference.”
Benning said a legal dispute over early-voting hours in the state that could have stopped voters from casting ballots this weekend made her feel that her vote was that much more important.
“It wasn’t fair and I want to make sure my right to vote is preserved,” she said. “It’s my God-given right.”
Many in the largely Democratic crowd also were bolstered by a visit from civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson, who arrived with hundreds of voters on a bus from six local churches as part of an effort known as “souls to the polls.”
Although he shook hands, hugged voters and smiled for photos, he sharply criticized the fact that they had to wait so long to cast their ballot.
“This is a fraud,” he told The Associated Press. “This is an overt attempt to sabotage democracy.”
Jackson said that all voting precincts should have been open this weekend, hours should have been longer and more voting machines should be inside each polling place.
Volunteers in Cleveland, Dayton, Toledo and other cities were driving residents to early voting sites in events arranged by the Ohio Organizing Collaborative, a nonprofit organization that says it pursues social change.
Clint Elmore, who helped arrange a Columbus event at his church, said voters and volunteers are keenly aware the election could be close and Ohio could be key, and that’s why he’s involved in voter education and get-out-the-vote events.
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