Washington(PTI): With the gruelling race to the White House between President Barack Obama and his rival Mitt Romney on a knife-edge, both the Democrat and Republican camps claimed victory as polling began today.
Residents of a small township in the New Hampshire State were the first to cast their ballot just shortly after midnight when polling began.
Dixville Notch in New Hampshire has been casting the first ballot of presidential elections since 1960. Since then it has picked seven out of 13 winners.
Obama, 51, and Romney, 65, each received five votes, in the first-in-the-nation vote, which was tied for the first time in its history, another indication of the knife’s edge separating the two candidates.
Unlike India and in most of the democracies across the world where the entire nation has one time for the opening and closing of polls, the election schedule in the United States, world’s largest democracies, varies from State to State.
As a result as per local New York time, Americans would be casting their votes today from early six in the morning to late 11 in the night.
Hours ahead of the today’s elections, both the Romney and Obama campaigns, in their speeches and conference calls with reporters, claimed that enthusiasm was on their side.
As polling centres in the US open this morning to decide who will sit in the White House for the next four years, over one-third of the voters have already exercised their franchise using the provision of early voting.
According to latest figures complied by the US Election Project of the George Mason University, more than 30.5 million voters had already cast their ballots.
Obama, who cast his vote through early voting along with First Lady Michelle Obama, led from the front as he became the first US President to do so.
The battle for the presidency has narrowed to 10 swing states, as Obama and Romney engaged in last ditch efforts to break into each others’ votebanks yesterday.
Obama will spend the election day in his home town of Chicago, playing basketball with friends and giving a dozen satellite interviews in several battleground States
Obama’s strategy on the final day of campaigning was to cement his last line of defence in the crucial industrial mid west and attempt to pluck away several insurance states from Romney’s target list.
Romney, who started as an underdog but grew into a formidable opponent, dashed through the swing states of Iowa and Ohio, trying to break into the Democrat citadels, telling voters that Obama’s record, particularly on the economy, did not warrant a return to the White House.
Romney will continue with his election campaigning even on the poll day today as he plans to woo the voters in key battleground states of Ohio and Pennsylvania.
According to campaign officials, Romney will travel to Ohio and Pennsylvania, which political experts said is part of his move to give a last minute edge to his electoral prospects in these two critical states.
Obama wrapped up his campaign yesterday at a community college in Colorado.
Owing to the unique nature of American political system, both the camps in fray for the presidential polls will be eyeing the magical figure of ‘270’, which is the minimum number of Electoral College votes a candidate needs to bag to be declared as the next President.
Presidential elections in the US are held under a system in which each state is worth a certain number of electoral votes based on population.
The opinion polls, have suggested a close contest.
The latest Washington Post-ABC tracking poll released yesterday gave Obama (50 per cent) a three point lead over Romney (47 per cent), which is still within the margin of statistical error.
“The poll also finds that Obama remains the favourite, with 55 per cent of voters saying that he will win in Tuesday’s election. By contrast, 35 per cent believe Romney will win while 10 per cent register no opinion,” the daily said.
The polls are too close to call, the CNN said, so did other major news networks.
The much sought after RealClearPolitics gave Obama an edge of 0.7 percentage point lead over Romney.
While it has been a tie in the CNN poll, two other polls Rasmussen Reports and Gallup have one point edge to Romney over Obama.
Another survey by Mommouth/ SurveyUSA/Braun it is a tie between the two presidential candidates.
But the two campaigns based on their own feedback from the ground claimed that they were headed for a win.
Karl Rove, the Republican strategist claimed that Romney would get 285 Electoral College votes (more than the 270 required to win the elections).
The Sabato’s Crystal Ball yesterday predicted that Obama would receive 290 Electoral College votes, while Romney will be lagging behind with 248 votes.
The Washington Examiner’s senior political analyst Michael Barone said that Romney would get 315 votes as compared to Obama’s 223.
Jen Psaki, the Obama Campaign spokesperson, said that the campaign is moving in the right direction, even though it is very close, and termed Romney’s claim to victory nothing less than fantasy.
“It’s worth reminding you we are tied or leading in every single swing state. We are ahead in early vote in almost every single swing state. We feel great about where our ground game is now. We feel great about where we’re closing this race,” she said.
“We know there’s a lot of fantasy talk happening from the Romney team about the number of electoral votes that they think they’re going to achieve. We’re not going to get into that kind of predictions. But the only thing that matters is that more people vote for President Obama than vote for Mitt Romney. We are confident of that,” Psaki told reporters travelling abroad Air Force One.