White House race goes down to the wire

Tue Nov 6, 2012 6:50pm EST
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By Steve Holland and John Whitesides

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A neck-and-neck White House race reached a frantic conclusion on Tuesday as voters chose between President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney in a decision that will set the course for two starkly different visions for the country.

After a long and bitter presidential campaign, Americans cast their votes at polling stations across the country. At least 120 million people were expected to render judgment on whether to give Obama a second term or replace him with Romney.

The first clues to who will win could come once results are in from the swing states of Virginia and Florida and, even more importantly, Ohio. Polls in all three will have closed by 8 p.m. EST (0100 GMT) and if the results are clear, U.S. television networks could begin projecting winners in those states soon after that.

Polls closed in Indiana and Kentucky - both firmly in the Republican camp - at 6 p.m. EST (2300 GMT) and voting will end across the country over the following six hours.

Who Americans choose will set the country's course for the next four years on spending, taxes, healthcare and foreign policy challenges like the rise of China and Iran's nuclear ambitions.

Each man offered different policies to cure what ails America's weak economy, with Obama pledging to raise taxes on the wealthy and Romney offering across-the-board tax cuts as a way to reignite strong economic growth.

National opinion polls show Obama and Romney in a virtual dead heat, although the Democratic incumbent has a slight advantage in several vital swing states - most notably Ohio - that could give him the 270 electoral votes needed to win the state-by-state contest.

According to Reuters-Ipsos Election Day polling, one in three Obama voters said the economy was the most important issue for them, while half of Romney voters agreed. Healthcare was the second most important issue for Obama voters and the budget deficit was second for Romney voters. Unemployment was third for both.   Continued...

A voter puts his hands in the air after leaving a polling station outside Hayden Park during the U.S. presidential election in Phoenix, Arizona November 6, 2012. REUTERS/Joshua Lott