As it happened: Campaign climax

Key Points

  • Presidential candidates Barack Obama and Mitt Romney make closing arguments to voters
  • One day before the US goes to the polls, the candidates sprinted through battleground states
  • National opinion polls show them tied, but give Obama a swing-state edge. Times EST (GMT-5)

    It's been a long campaign, but on Monday it finally comes to an end. Join us here at 1200 EST (1700 GMT) on 5 November for our live updates as the two candidates pitch for votes on the eve of the election.


    Welcome to our live coverage on the final frenetic day of campaigning for the US presidential election, with Obama and Romney hurtling neck and neck to the finish line. We'll bring you live updates from our correspondents following both candidates, as well as a selection of the best photos, tweets and your emails.


    Obama's just taken to the stage at a rally in Madison, Wisconsin. But Romney was first out of the gate this morning, appearing in Sanford, Florida. Here's the rivals' eye-watering campaign diary today:


    The BBC's Helena Merriman, in Wisconsin with the Obama campaign, says the Democratic incumbent's staff are recruiting volunteers even now - attendees at the rally have been given volunteer cards and urged to go out and speak to voters today "and keep Wisconsin blue".


    While Obama's at his first rally of the day, Romney heads to Virginia for stop number two. Here, the Republican boards his campaign plane, playfully dubbed Hair Force One by wife Ann in a nod to his matinee-idol 'do:

    Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney waves to supporters as he walks to his campaign plane after a campaign rally at the airport in Sanford, Florida 5 November 2012
    Ian Pannell BBC News, Sanford, Florida

    tweets earlier from Romney's first stop: "Romney energetic in Fl as he closes - 'the door to a brighter future is open to us, I need your vote'"


    Here's the confusing bit. It's not the US popular vote that decides who becomes president. Instead, the result is determined by the electoral college, which apportions votes to states based on a mix of population and congressional representation. Still with us? Good. Whoever wins 270 electoral college votes becomes president. And that's why the candidates focus almost exclusively on key states that don't reliably vote for one party. Our battleground states graphic explains more.


    The BBC's Michelle Fleury in New York says there was cautiousness on Wall Street this morning as the markets opened a tad lower. Stocks are currently hovering around break-even.


    After a manic last 24 hours of campaigning, the rivals were expected to spend Tuesday at their HQs, awaiting results. Or not. Romney aides tell US media they're considering a last-minute effort in Ohio - deemed a must-win for Mr Romney. Here's voters in Columbus, Ohio, on Monday doing their thing.

    Voters wait in line to cast their ballots at the Franklin County in-person absentee voting location in Columbus, Ohio 5 November 2012

    At his stump speech in Madison, Wisconsin, Obama tells supporters that while progress has been made, there's much more to do. The crowd cheers: "Four more years". Rock legend Bruce Springsteen appears on stage with the president, joking, "that first [presidential] debate really freaked me out."


    Meanwhile, in Lynchburg, Virginia, Romney is cheered by supporters as he says the country is "one day away from a fresh start".


    Romney also says he would "limit government rather than limiting the dreams of our fellow Americans", adding that all business owners will know, if he is elected, that their president "actually likes them".


    Back in Wisconsin, here's Obama and the Boss:

    Barack Obama and Bruce Springsteen (R) during an election campaign rally in Madison, Wisconsin, 5 November 2012

    Virginia, Romney's second stop, is one of the most crucial swing states. The RealClearPolitics average of opinion polls currently has Obama squeaking ahead here by 0.3% points.


    Nearly 1.4m US power customers were still cut off on Monday morning because of last week's super storm, Sandy. The BBC's Philippa Thomas tweets: "New York state official says National Guard may give voters glow sticks - to see ballot papers in stations w/out power. #Sandy #Vote2012."

    Farzana Safiullah in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

    emails: I am a woman and a minority. I dread to contemplate changes in policies affecting women in particular and the nation in general if Romney were to win.


    The BBC has been covering American elections for decades, and we've dusted off five classic moments in our cavernous vault from presidential campaigns of bygone eras. Modern viewers may find some of those featured in these clips to be OTT, crass and politically incorrect - and that's just the presenters.


    Check out for yourself how the electoral college works state by state. Have a go at predicting the president, using our snazzy graphic.

    Paul LaBounty in Greeley, Colorado

    says: "We actually used to be Republicans, but my sister-in-law convinced us to change to the Democrats in 1995. Our children are Republicans though. The Republicans have changed over the years. They used to be for the people, but they aren't anymore."


    It's not just a presidential election on Tuesday. Americans will also vote on the entire House of Representatives and a third of the Senate. Here's some juicy races to watch.


    With 34 states and the District of Columbia allowing early voting before the election, 30 million people have already cast their ballots as of Friday. In Nevada, a battleground state, early voting has hit a record high, edging near 70% of the electorate, according to the Washington Post.

    Jonny Dymond BBC News, Boston

    tweets: "Landed in Boston for final #Romney rally in Manchester, NH. People on rental shuttle not talking about #election2012. Why?"

    Paul Adams in Madison, Wisconsin BBC News, Washington

    says Bruce Springsteen tells the crowd the future is "rarely a tide rushing in", but "a slow march". Does a decent job of encapsulating Obama's argument.

    Susan Scott

    tweets: I can't wait to vote for Mitt Romney tomorrow. It's been a really long 4 years. #1moreday


    The pan-media campaign blitz continues. ABC News is running op-eds from both Obama (The America We Believe in Is Within Our Reach) and Romney (Vision for America).


    Also on the trail today: vice-presidential candidates Joe Biden and Paul Ryan. Romney's deputy, Ryan, will cover the most ground, with stops in Nevada, Colorado, Iowa, Virginia and Wisconsin. Obama's number two Biden is just in Virginia on Monday.

    Jon Laing in Brooklyn

    tweets: @BBCNewsUS There should be protocols in place to allow extended voting in places recently hit with a large storm, or other disaster.

    Anil in Chicago

    emails: As a minority and an immigrant, I want to see family values upheld. I dread what Obama could do if granted another four years. Hence my wife and I shall vote Romney tomorrow.


    Everyone's a pundit: Shamans in Lima, Peru, perform a ritual using pictures of the candidates to predict a US election winner. They prognosticated a victory for Obama.

    Shaman perform a ritual using a picture of U.S. presidential candidate Mitt Romney to predict the winner of the upcoming U.S. Presidential elections at San Cristobal hill in Lima 5 November 2012

    The Romney camp might take comfort from the Washington Redskins' loss on Sunday. Since 1940, the outcome of the local NFL team's last home game before the election has correctly predicted the outcome of the White House race 17 out of 18 times. If the Redskins lose, the challenger wins; if the Redskins win, the incumbent wins. Check it out in our daily election diet.

    The BBC's Adam Blenford

    tweets: "An entirely unscientific recce of Fairfax, Virginia this morning revealed Romney/Ryan probably winning the yard sign battle."


    In his analysis, BBC North America editor Mark Mardell sees America as bitterly divided and reckons that whoever loses the election will not happily tread the path chosen by the other America.


    tweets: I really need to carry a giant balloon that says I already voted so I can stop being harassed on campus. They're awfully pushy #Election2012

    1406: Paul Adams BBC News, Madison, Wisconsin

    says Obama tells the crowd that people tend to romanticise his 2008 White House run, but with his recent references to the '90s and Bill Clinton, plus the sound of Fleetwood Mac's Don't Stop (thinking about tomorrow), there's more rose-tinting afoot as this campaign draws to a close.

    Patrick Devereux in Newport News, Virginia

    emails: As the United States becomes more polarised so does the left and right extremes. I have never seen a race in which hatred is such an integral part of the choosing.


    In such a close election race, every little counts, including the weather. The Washingon Post's Capital Weather Gang has posted its election day forecast: scattered showers and a few thunder storms in northern Florida, some rain in Wisconsin. Election lore has it that bad weather favours Republican turnout.

    Morgan Harrington in Rumford, Rhode Island

    tweets: I absolutely cannot wait for this election to be over. I've heard enough from everybody; Democrats, Republicans, whoever. It's time to vote.


    As if the last six months (or is that 18 months) of campaigning wasn't enough for Mitt Romney, his aides have confirmed a change of plan for tomorrow - the Republican nominee will campaign in Ohio and Pennsylvania on election day.


    Romney's decision to carry on campaigning into election day is likely to be seen as a show of determination and strength by his team and of weakness by the Obama camp. For the record, he will stop in Cleveland, Ohio and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.


    Mitt Romney's election day events will seek to back up his team's the "get out the vote" effort. At vice-presidential candidate's Paul Ryan's first stop today in Reno, Nevada, he echoed that theme, telling supporters to find neighbours and extended family and bring them to the polls on Tuesday.

    Republican vice presidential candidate, Paul Ryan gestures as he speaks during a campaign event in Reno, Nevada 5 November 2012

    Rock legend Bruce Springsteen has posted his Wisconsin speech backing Barack Obama. Here's one excerpt: "We are charged with the hard daily struggle to make those possibilities, those changes real and enduring in a world that challenges your hopefulness, a world that is often brutally resistant to change. We've lived through that struggle over these past four years when the forces of opposition have been tireless. I stood with President Obama four years ago and I'm proud to be standing with him today."


    If you thought the long campaign would end in an orderly fashion with votes being cast and counted, you might need to think again. A debate over voter ID rules has rumbled on in many states all through the campaign, and there are complications with ballot rules in key states - including Ohio. NBC News ponders four "nightmare scenarios" for election day.


    Each US state is able to pass its own voting laws and regulate its own elections - which means there are many different rules. In Florida, for example, there was been confusion at the weekend over the casting of absentee ballots in Miami-Dade County, the Miami Herald reports.


    There have been scuffles over early voting extensions in both Ohio and Florida - two states that have tried to reduce the number of early voting days from 2008. In Ohio, the Obama campaign was able to extend early voting into Monday after it took legal action.


    Ohio and Florida are just two of a handful of states that have been trying to introduce stricter requirements for how voters register and cast their ballots. The BBC has created this guide to the voter identification measures being introduced around the country, and how it could affect voters.


    While there may be confusion over rules governing early voting, there is little doubt that lots and lots of people are waiting in line in Ohio. This video, posted to YouTube by Elizabeth Abdnour, shows exactly how long the queue to vote is at a polling place in Cincinnati. How long exactly? Long enough...

    Andy Jacobs in Kentucky

    tweets, but doesn't give too much away: Excited to vote for my first president tomorrow. I've heard both sides of the argument and I think the choice is clear #election2012


    Commentary magazine editor John Podhoretz issues a warning on Twitter: Basic point: Believe nothing tomorrow before polls close. Nothing.


    It's mid-afternoon so it must be time for Mitt Romney's next campaign appearance, in Fairfax, Virginia. He's now on the podium with his wife, Ann.


    A boisterous crowd at George Mason University is chanting: "One more day!" and signs reading "Moms for Mitt" are fluttering above people's heads.


    Brit-reference from Romney: "I'm looking around to see if we have the Beatles here or something," he tells the cheering crowd. Could he be remembering his own British heritage? Our piece on Romney's roots in northern England will reveal all.


    This is Romney's second event today in Virginia, a swing state with 13 electoral votes and very close poll numbers. Earlier he was on the stump in Lynchburg. Virginia is getting plenty of attention from the campaigns today, as Vice-President Joe Biden is spending Monday there too.


    Romney reprises his attacks on President Obama, who he says was more concerned about pushing his agenda than creating jobs. The Republican asks the crowd whether legislation such as the 2010 Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) and the Dodd-Frank financial reform law helped ease joblessness.


    The former governor of Massachusetts is now offering the crowd a choice: between "four more years like the last four years" or "real change". We're likely to hear more of this line of argument before the next two days are over.


    Romney is renewing his pledge to make America energy independent. He tells the crowd he would approve the Keystone XL pipeline from western Canada to Texas - a project mothballed by the White House earlier this year amid environmental concerns.


    Romney, a businessman criticised during the campaign for his wealth and privilege, promises not just to "represent one party, I'll represent one nation".


    "America is coming roaring back," Romney says. He looks composed, as he takes another passing swipe at Obama with a quick reference to October's presidential debates.


    "Tomorrow we get to work rebuilding our country," Mitt Romney says.


    As he closes, Romney reminds everyone to reach out to neighbours with the "other yard sign" - a reference to Virginia's Obama supporters. The president carried Virginia in 2008, but it voted Republican regularly before that. "Walk with me," says the Republican who wants to be president.


    So, that wraps up Romney's appearances in Virginia. Next stop: Columbus, Ohio. That's where the president is right now, and hip-hop superstar Jay-Z is his warm-up act.


    In Columbus, Jay-Z is telling the crowd that he wasn't allowed to use any "colourful language", so he's customised the lyrics of one of his biggest hits: "I've got 99 problems but Mitt ain't one".


    Before we leave Virginia for a while, here's the welcome Mitt Romney and his wife Ann got from the crowd a short while ago in Fairfax.

    Mitt and Ann Romney in Fairfax, Virginia 5 November 2012

    In Columbus, Jay-Z has just introduced Obama, who has strolled up to the podium and is waving at supporters from the podium.


    The first thing to note is: Obama's voice is hoarse. It takes a lot of stamina to get through the long campaign season, as a recent story of ours shows.


    Obama's voice sounds hoarser with every exhortation. He's rattling through a familiar roll-call of achievements now: the auto bailout, the killing of Osama bin Laden.


    Like his rival, Obama opened his speech with a reference to Superstorm Sandy, which devastated the US north-east when it made landfall in New Jersey last week.


    Now the president is drawing the battle lines for his supporters in Columbus. He tells people they can choose between "the top-down economic policies that crashed our economy" or an economy that works for all Americans.


    You may have noticed that the candidates have been spending rather a lot of time in Ohio recently. That's because the Buckeye State is widely seen as being the single most important state to win in this election - and that's especially true for Mitt Romney, who has fewer "paths to victory". No Republican has ever become president without winning Ohio.


    Can you plot a path to victory for either candidate? See how important Ohio is with our electoral college calculator. (PS: It's more fun than it sounds...)


    Obama tells the Columbus crowd that this election is not just about policy, but is also about trust. "You know me now, Ohio," he says. But he tells people: "I do what I say. You know where I stand." His own defence of his record is in direct contrast to the criticism of his achievements and agenda offered by his rival.


    Obama tells the crowd he is fighting for the people whose letters he reads late at night - "They need a champion," he says.


    And that's it from Obama. He is now finished in Ohio, but even as he leaves Mitt Romney is winging his way there - his next rally is also set for Columbus, a little later on this evening.


    After Columbus, Mitt Romney is heading to New Hampshire tonight, and then onto Ohio and Pennsylvania after voting tomorrow. Barack Obama wraps up his campaign tonight and heads to his Chicago base.


    The music of the election: While the Obama crowd in Columbus jammed to Jay-Z's 99 Problems, Time reporter Alex Altman tweets that supporters outside the Romney event in Fairfax sang My Girl, using Romney's name in the chorus.


    Four Ohio opinion polls were released today, giving us one of our final indications of how tight the race is there. The Rasmussen Reports survey shows Obama and Romney dead even with 49% each, while the University of Cincinnati and Gravis Marketing both give Obama a lead of one percentage point. One report, from SurveyUSA, puts Obama five points ahead.


    Barack Obama has consistently held these narrow swing state leads, but is that any guarantee of success? New York Times polling analyst Nate Silver argues that Obama's slim but consistent poll leads are good news for the president.


    From storm-hit New York, it's emerging that Governor Andrew Cuomo is to sign an executive order to allow New Yorkers to vote in any polling station tomorrow.

    New York Governor Andrew Cuomo

    tweets: BREAKING: Gov has signed Exec. Order that will greatly facilitate #voting #sandy-affected 4 NYers #electionday, vote by affidavit


    More from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo: We want everyone to vote & we want to make it as easy as possible, Gov says re: signing Exec. Order for #electionday


    The executive order on voting from the New York governor applies to Rockland, Westchester, Long Island and New York City, according to his official Twitter account.


    What does Andrew Cuomo's move mean in practice? Affidavit voting means that votes cast outside usual home precincts will be put in an envelope and taken back to the Board of Election offices. There the voter's registration can be checked before the vote is counted. There are more details available on the New York City's Board of Elections website.


    Meanwhile, in neighbouring New Jersey, which was also suffered devastation at the hands of Storm Sandy, Republican Governor Chris Christie has said residents displaced by the storm can vote by email or fax.


    What do you think about these moves in New York and New Jersey to open up voting in the wake of the storm? Admirable efforts to open up the democratic process, or a prime opportunity for fraud?


    In other news, Rupert Murdoch is weighing in on the election, via Twitter: Everybody searching for any scrap of news about election tomorrow. plenty of straws to grasp for Romney, probably not enough.

    Matthew Howe in Worthington, Ohio

    writes: It feels like the candidates are obsessed with us in Ohio, as if we are the only state that matters - and it's highly stressful. I have a hard time sleeping because the level of intensity and ideological fervor has risen so high. I'm afraid of losing friends and clients because I don't vote the way they do.


    Normally, the states hit hardest by Storm Sandy reliably vote for Democrats in presidential contests but some correspondents are now saying that if turnout is really low it could hurt Obama's popular vote count. Still, it's the local races that could suffer the most from chaos on polling day.


    The BBC's Paul Adams tweets: The sun goes down in Wisconsin. It's almost election day. @bbcnewsus #election2012 #Hipstamatic #JohnS #Inas1969

    Wisconsin landscape 5 November 2012

    It's nearly that time again - Mitt Romney has a rally in Columbus, Ohio, coming up, which is due to start in a few minutes. We do keep harping on about Ohio, but take a look at this handy graphic from the New York Times and see how many of the 512 ways to win the White House take you through the state.


    Meanwhile, we've spotted former President Bill Clinton - still beating the Obama drum on the stump in Pennsylvania. He's also reminding everybody that Democratic presidents can bring down deficits - because he did it while he was in office.


    And Michelle Obama is also out there campaigning on her husband's behalf. Right now, she's talking to voters in Orlando, Florida. The first lady is managing a pretty hectic diary these days. Earlier today she was out pitching to voters in North Carolina and later tonight she is joining the president at a rally in Iowa.


    While we're waiting for Romney to take the stage, here's a quick recap of what his number two has been up to all day. Nobody has covered more ground than Wisconsin Republican Paul Ryan, who had stops in Nevada, Colorado, Iowa, Virginia and Wisconsin. Tomorrow he's going to stay in Wisconsin and vote in his hometown of Janesville.


    The Huffington Post has reported that New Jersey's Republican Governor Chris Christie, once a potential VP candidate, declined to appear with Mitt Romney at a rally on Sunday night. The governor cited storm recovery, the website says, but the move has left some Romney aides rather puzzled. Intriguing stuff.


    The subtext with Chris Christie is the fact that he has been so effusive in his praise of President Obama since Sandy came ashore in the north-east last week. Christie's regular TV appearances alongside or praising the president were seen by many as a public relations boost for the president - perhaps at the expense of Mitt Romney.

    James Lomax in Norfolk, Virginia

    writes: In response to a comment from Ohio: Being from Virginia, one of the key swing states, I feel the bombardment of ideological pressure from both candidates. I can't view an hour-long television program without at least 30 minutes of campaign advertisements. Advertisements I may point out that are usually void of any common sense. Voters like myself and the gentleman from Ohio receive all the attention because the electoral college mandates that our votes, within just a few key states, will determine the election of the next president of one of the world's leading democracies.

    Kayla Preston in Washington DC

    tweets: Literally every radio commercial is about the election. Already sick of it! #Election2012


    Pennsylvania, with 20 electoral college votes, has seen a flurry of last-minute attenion - a sign of just how closely the race is being fought. Mitt Romney campaigned in Bucks County last night, a place the BBC has been visiting throughout this election year, following the iconic American suburb Levittown. Our man David Botti was at last night's rally and explores what's at stake in this crucial slice of the state. Is it really a case of "So goes Bucks County, so goes America"?


    It's Romney time again: in Columbus, Ohio, Mitt Romney's campaign jet is cruising into view. He has just touched down and is taxiing straight into the hangar, with supporters waving flags and signs to greet him. Patriotic music is blaring out.


    Ohio Senator Rob Portman warmed up the crowd in Columbus, saying: "We're freezing for a reason." Portman was passed over as a vice-presidential candidate but was Romney's main debating partner ahead of the presidential debates.

    Mitt Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul

    tweets: Fire Marshall says 10,000 people at @MittRomney event in Columbus, OH. Estimated 2,000 outside. #RomneyRyan2012


    Mitt Romney is at the stand with his wife Ann at his side. She tells the crowd she is grateful for the support of the state that could decide who becomes the next president. Ann's voice quivers with emotion as she describes the journey of the last year-and-a-half, before handing the podium over to her husband.

    Molly Ball, The Atlantic

    tweets: Mitt in North Face, Ann in Patagonia. A mixed marriage!


    Romney opens his comments with an appeal to supporters to keep working until victory is clear on Tuesday night. Tell your neighbours and friends to look past the ads - and attacks - because talk is cheap, Romney says.


    As Mitt Romney speaks in Ohio, here is one Republican supporter getting excited at his Fairfax rally earlier in the day:

    A woman wears Romney sunglasses at a rally in Fairfax, Virginia 5 November 2012

    As one of our readers confirmed a little earlier, Ohio residents are only too familiar with the attack ad situation in their state. The airwaves have been plastered with spots from both parties as the campaigns poured money into advertising. We've broken down these staggeringly large numbers to show you where the money comes from in US politics.


    Romney is running through a list of Obama's legislative achievements and is asking the crowd whether they helped create new jobs. Obamacare? NO! His supporters chant. Dodd-Frank financial reform? NO! "You passed the test," Romney tells them.


    We're hearing some of the Republican's key refrains in Romney's fourth appearance of the day. He's just asked everyone whether they want four more years like the last four years or real change. "Are you tired of feeling tired?" he asks an energetic crowd. They certainly don't sound tired.


    On his first day in office, Romney says, he would brand China a currency manipulator. It's a popular campaign pledge of his, and a tougher line than President Obama has taken. But in Ohio, a hub of US manufacturing, talking tough on China is a popular theme.

    Associated Press reporter Kasie Hunt

    tweets a front-row Instagram view of Mitt Romney in Ohio: Mitt Romney in Columbus, Ohio, as the crowd shouts, "one more day!"

    Mitt Romney in Ohio, 5 November 2012

    "In the last few days of the campaign we've gathered the strength of a movement," Romney says, to resounding applause from the crowd. He pledges not simply to represent one party but to represent one nation.


    Throwing a bit of wordplay into the mix, the former Massachusetts governor says that instead of "forward", the Obama campaign slogan, he prefers to say "forewarned".


    Romney promises the crowd that with the right leadership America can come "roaring back".


    "Walk with me," Romney says, winding up his remarks with Ann back at his side. And that wraps up his penultimate event of the day. Romney reaches out to shake a few hands as he makes his way towards his plane. There's still one more stop to go tonight, in New Hampshire.


    Romney may be offline for a few hours, but don't go thinking the campaigning has stopped: Vice-President Joe Biden is on the stump now, in Richmond, Virginia.


    Biden is giving a typical rabble-rousing speech, virtually shouting at the crowd as he tells them Barack Obama has a "backbone like a ramrod".


    Biden comes to a crescendo: "If we win Virginia we win this election!" And then he's off...


    The BBC's Rajesh Mirchandani tweets: El Paso County Clerk showed @BBCNewsUS some of Colorado's 1.7m early votes, ready for the count in this crucial state.

    Bags of early votes ready to be counted Colorado Springs, Colorado 5 November 2012
    Rajesh Mirchandani BBC News, Colorado Springs

    adds that as many as 70% of voters in Colorado have already cast their ballots. With nine electoral college votes, in 2008 Obama carried a state that had voted Republican in the two elections before that.


    If you're just joining us now, US presidential candidates Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are almost through a frantic final day of campaigning before election day tomorrow. Romney swung through Florida, had two events in Virginia and then went to Ohio. Meanwhile, Obama started in Wisconsin before travelling to Ohio.


    And the candidates are not done yet. Romney is due to make a big speech in Manchester, New Hampshire at 23:00 EDT (04:00 GMT), with musician Kid Rock alongside him. Obama is speaking later tonight in Des Moines, Iowa, and flies to Chicago before the night is over.

    The BBC's Jonny Dymond

    tweets: Huge queue outside final #Romney rally in Manchester NH #election2012 @BBCNewsUS


    Correspondents have noted Iowa's special significance for President Obama - the place where it all began for him. In January 2008 Senator Barack Obama swept to victory in the Iowa caucus, kickstarting his underdog bid for the White House. He's expected to touch on the state's role in his political rise in his remarks tonight, at what he says is his last ever campaign stop.


    Here are some of the day's highlights in pictures: Superstar surrogates Jay-Z and Bruce Springsteen flank Obama at a rally in Columbus, Ohio.

    Jay-Z (left) and Bruce Springsteen (right) with Barack Obama in Columbus, Ohio 5 November 2012

    Another striking image: Mitt Romney's plane makes a dramatic entry at a rally in Columbus, Ohio.

    ROmney plane pulls into a hangar full of supporters in Columbus, Ohio 5 November 2012
    Washington Post reporter David Nakamura

    tweets: A nostalgic Obama returns to Iowa tonight for a symbolic end of his last campaign:

    Brittany in Washington state

    tweets: I'm actually really excited about results tomorrow. Is that weird? #Election2012

    Jeremy Myers in Columbus, Ohio

    emails: Most people I have spoken with are eagerly anticipating "relief" after voting occurs on Tuesday. Not only from the inundation of phone calls, canvassers and campaign brochures, but from the sponsored advertisements that are flooding social media such as Facebook. In short, many are eagerly anticipating the conclusion of this race, not only to learn the outcome.


    For something a little different, we've put together this evocative slideshow of images from the candidates' lives before they entered politics. Something to mull over in the final hours before polls open.


    So it's official: Pennsylvania is in play, the Obama team says. Deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter tells CNN's Anderson Cooper the state has "tightened". That would explain all the campaigning there in the past few days.


    Also, Pennsylvania has no early voting. So there's more in play in the Keystone State than in other places where significant portions of the electorate may have already made their choice.

    Jake Tapper ABC News Chief White House correspondent

    tweets more Pennsylvania news: My sweet mom in Philly writes: "Just got robo-call from Bill Clinton urging me to vote because 'it's gonna be close.'"


    Earlier this evening the Obama campaign's national field director, Jeremy Bird, said promoting early voting was an important political strategy, especially in swing states. The practice has proven popular with infrequent and newly registered voters, and with women, young people and minorities, Bird said.


    The BBC's Philippa Thomas : #Obama field dir Jeremy Bird says 32,854 "get out the vote" (GOTV) shifts sched Tuesday for #Ohio, 37,266 #Pennsylvania, 26,055 #Florida


    The get-out-the-vote effort is important for both parties, partly because of the ongoing rows over voting rights and access. The Washington Post has compiled a list of recent incidents of voting irregularities, starting with the most recent, to give you a flavour of what's going on on the ground across the US.


    We're waiting for President Obama's last ever campaign rally to get under way in Des Moines, Iowa. US presidents are allowed to govern for a maximum of two terms, so regardless of what happens tomorrow night it's highly unlikely we'll see Obama on the campaign trail again. It's fitting for him to end things in Iowa, where he won his very first caucus back in 2008.


    We've had a couple of emails offering contrasting views on how the election is going to turn out tomorrow...

    Evan Murphy in Montague, Michigan

    writes: I really don't think this is going be a cliffhanger. Obama has led in the polls consistently for over a year, with the exception of a week after the first debate. He is ahead in all but one "battleground" states. Obama will garner at least 290 and most likely more than 300 electoral college votes. All in all, a pretty standard American presidential election.

    Matthew in Jacksonville, Florida

    writes: I believe we are going to see a repeat of 1980 with a horrible economy run by a Democrat being changed by the hope a Republican will finally turn the economy around.


    Back in Iowa, Jason Noble of the Des Moines Register tweets: Crowd chanting "I-O-W-A Barack Obama all the way" as they wait for Bruce Springsteen and the First Couple #ObamaIA #IAvotes


    It's not just the candidates who have been out on the campaign trail today. In this picture Sam, young son of Republican running mate Paul Ryan, peeps through the backstage curtains before an event - also in Des Moines, Iowa.

    Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan's son Sam peeps through the curtains at a campaign event in Des Moines, Iowa 5 November 2012
    Sanjoy Majumder, BBC India correspondent

    tweets: #US #election2012 is front page news in #India but does anyone care? #obama or #Romney they can live with both.


    President Obama and wife Michelle have reunited after spending the day campaigning separately. He met her at the steps of her plane in Des Moines, gave her a hug and asked "How you doing?" There was no word on her reply.


    Bruce Springsteen is warming up the crowd as the opening act at the Des Moines rally. He's travelling on Air Force One with Obama and getting crowds ready for the president. There's no sign of Jay-Z this evening, though.


    "An American dream, and an American reality. Your vote tomorrow is the only way to determine how much distance lies between the two," The Boss Bruce Springsteen tells the audience in Iowa.


    Even as Iowa waits for Obama, that other famed early-season primary state, New Hampshire, has turned out in force for Mitt Romney, Romney press secretary Allie Brandenburger tweets: PACKED house for @MittRomney in #NH #onemoreday!!

    Andrea Astwa in West Des Moines, Iowa

    tweets: Happy to vote tomorrow, but so ready for election season to be over!! #nomorepoliticalads #iowa


    The two campaigns are a contrast in musical syles right now: Springsteen doing an solo acoustic number in Iowa, and Kid Rock and band crashing out a version of Sweet Home Alabama for Romney in New Hampshire.


    Springsteen wraps up his set as Michelle Obama takes to the podium. This is the first lady's third stop today: earlier she was taking the Democratic message to voters in North Carolina and Florida.


    "This is a pretty emotional time for us because this is the final event of my husband's final campaign," the first lady says in her opening remarks. "Truly, this is where it all began," she adds.


    Thanking Democratic supporters in Des Moines, Michelle Obama says that in office, her husband has "stayed true to himself" and describes him as a "man of honour".


    Meanwhile... the Daily Mail's Toby Harden tweets from Manchester, New Hampshire: Kid Rock warming up crowd for Romneys says he won't talk politics but "you know who I'll be voting for in the morning"


    Back in Des Moines, President Obama is jogging out to join the first lady on the stage, and takes her for a stroll to wave at supporters around the arena.


    It's Obama's turn to address the crowds in Des Moines. "This is where our movement for change began," he tells everyone.

    Catherine in Iowa City

    writes: Everyone's keyed up. The Obamas have been here 4 or 5 times and celebrities too, just to get us to vote. But the Republicans are out in full force too. It's going to get interesting.


    The president is spinning yarns from the 2008 campaign days, when the local field office had no heating and people brought gloves and hats for the volunteers. "You said 'Yes we can' and you did," Obama tells the crowd.


    And while Obama speaks in Des Moines, Ann and Mitt Romney come on stage in Manchester.


    It looks as though the president could be shedding a tear as he speaks in Iowa. "We're not done yet on this journey," he says. "Our fight for change goes on."


    Obama: "You know I tell the truth, you know I'll fight for your families as hard as I know how." He jokes that he's got the scars to prove it, and that he had less grey hair when he first came to Iowa.


    Romney: "Tomorrow we begin a new tomorrow. Look beyond the speeches, and the attacks and the ads, and look at the record. Change is not measured in speeches, it's measured in achievements."


    Romney and Obama both sticking broadly to the themes they've honed on the stump throughout the autumn election season. In New Hampshire, Romney is laying out how Obama has failed on policy.

    Financial Times reporter Anna Fifield

    tweets from Romney's rally: If I didn't know better I'd think this #NewHampshire crowd was ready to vote @AnnDRomney for president #election2012


    Obama: "What the protectors of the status quo are counting on now is that you'll get fed up with the dysfunction... their bet is on cynicism. But Iowa, you taught me to bet on you."


    Obama is exhorting the crowds not to surrender now, he says he's not ready to give up the fight. But "to wage that fight on behalf of American families, I need you to have some fight left in you too."


    Meanwhile, Mitt Romney says Americans need jobs, and asks the crowd if they really want four more years of Barack Obama. "I know how to change the course the nation is on," he says. "Accomplishing real change is not just something I talk about, it's something I've done and something I'll do as president of the United States.


    Both candidates appealing to their supporters at the last: Romney asking his to help, volunteer, vote and get him elected; Obama telling his crowd: "It's all about you now. It's out of my hands."


    Obama's (hoarse) voice is rising, as he tells the crowd that this election is out of his hands now. "The most powerful force in our democracy is you," Obama says.


    Romney tells the crowd there will be nothing different about a second Obama term, insisting his rival would not work with Congress any more effectively than he has done in the past two years.

    Hebe in DC

    tweets: Obama turning it up in Iowa. Doing the "fired up, ready to go" story. Wonderful echoes of his final rally in 2008.


    Romney reprises the line about how his campaign feels like it is starting a movement. And one of his catchphrases: "I won't just represent one party; I'll represent one nation."

    The Independent's Guy Adams

    tweets: Not true that there are people outside, Mitt. I saw the last ones come in. Also, you can see empty seats from yr stage


    Romney: "Americans don't settle. We build, we aspire. Tomorrow we get to work rebuilding our country."


    Big cheer in Manchester when Romney mentions jobs for college graduates - and an even bigger one when he pledges to get to work on 7 November.


    Romney appears still and calm on the podium as reaches his finale: "Now we're almost home. The door to a brighter future is almost open. I need your help, I need your vote - walk with me."


    And now Obama has finished as well, after a long, slow rhetorical trip down memory lane.


    "One voice can change a room. And if it can change a room, it can change a city. And if it can change a city it can change a state. And if it can change a state it can change a country. And if it can change a country it can change the world. Iowa you helped us change the world," Obama said as he came to the end of his speech. "Are you fired up?!"

    Roger Simon of Politico

    tweets: Obama really nails the last campaign speech of his career.


    That was the last we'll see of Obama the candidate. Soon the president is flying to Chicago, where he will spend election day. Tomorrow he is likely to visit his campaign office, but will spend much of his day playing basketball and laying low while voters decide his fate. When we next hear him at a podium he will either be celebrating victory - or conceding defeat.


    For Romney, things aren't quite over yet. His campaign has set up two last-minute events tomorrow in Cleveland, Ohio and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania - even as polling is under way.

    Felicia Sonmez from the Washington Post

    tweets: Woman in crowd as we exit NH rally tells me if Romney loses 2moro "it will be the second saddest day America has had." 1st? Election Day '08


    The candidates are barely off the stump and polls are about to open in the first voting precinct in the country: Dixville Notch, New Hampshire. The handful of voters - 10, according to the Associated Press - will be the first to cast their ballots just after the stroke of midnight on election day.


    Barack Obama and Mitt Romney win five votes each in New Hampshire hamlet of Dixville Notch, opening US election 2012.


    And that brings the long, last day of campaigning to a close. It's time for us to wrap up our live coverage, but we'll be back bright and early tomorrow to take you through all the action on election day itself. Who will America choose? We'll find out soon enough. Thanks for being with us.


US Presidential Election 2012

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