With the last polls in Indiana, Virginia and Georgia closing at 7 p.m. Eastern tonight, those states will be the first battlegrounds to watch this evening as voters decide whether Barack Obama or John McCain will become the next president of the United States.
After spending millions of dollars and investing countless time and energy in the states perceived to be most crucial to victory, the presidential contenders will return to their home states on Election Day. In doing so, they'll complete a sprint that's brought them through the most critical states of the 2008 race in the final days of the campaign.
In the final three days of the election, the Obama and McCain camps have dashed across the country, making their final plugs in battleground states they'll need to win to secure the White House. In the home stretch this weekend and Monday, both campaigns visited hotly contested states, such as Ohio, Missouri and Florida. On Monday alone, McCain touched down at airports in seven states -- including Florida, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Indiana, New Mexico, Nevada, and Arizona -- for rallies on the eve of decision day.
With an expected record number of voters lined up at the polls today, both candidates are still campaigning. McCain is appearing in New Mexico and Colorado after voting in Arizona Tuesday morning and Obama visits battleground Indiana Tuesday, not far from his hometown of Chicago.
Their final pushes top off far more extensive efforts in the battlegrounds. The campaigns have held a staggering number of events in those states since wrapping up their respective party nominations this spring and summer. According to ABC News' count, Ohio ranks first on that list, hosting 145 events between the two tickets through Nov. 4. Florida takes a close second, with 113 events, and Pennsylvania ranks third with 101 events through Tuesday.
Still, that effort may pay off tonight more for Obama than McCain, according to ABC News' analysis based on reporting with the campaigns themselves, national party officials, outside groups, House and Senate party committees, state parties, state polls and early and absentee vote returns.
Obama leads McCain by 53-44 percent in the latest ABC News/Washington Post tracking poll released Monday evening.
"We've learned not to be surprised by anything in politics in recent years, but what's been remarkable about the polls, a welter of national polls over the last month, is just how steady they are," ABC News' George Stephanopoulos said Monday on "Good Morning America." "They all show a steady Obama lead over the last several weeks, and in our ABC News poll, he's been above 50 percent for most of the month of October."
ABC News' analysis also reveals that every state won by John Kerry in 2004 is safe, likely or leaning in favor of Democrats. Five states that George Bush won four years ago are also tilting towards Obama. If that indeed holds this Election Day, Obama will secure more than the 270 electoral votes to win the White House.