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Monday, November 3, 2008

Election results - Will the White House be a "Black House" Obama Favoured in early Poll Results

White House front-runner Barack Obama and his comeback-seeking rival John McCain charged through decisive states in a frenetic final blitz Monday, on the eve of historic US elections. But in a tragic twist, hours before Obama could be elected as America's first black president he announced that Madelyn Dunham, the grandmother who raised him, had died at 86.

"We are one day away from changing the United States of America," Obama, 47, said in Florida, before heading off to pump up crowds in North Carolina and Virginia, hoping to squeeze his rival on normally Republican territory. McCain meanwhile vowed to prove pollsters wrong by staging one of the most shocking upsets in US political history. But he had almost no room for error in a handful of toss-up states where the battle is most fierce. "The Mac is back!" he roared at his campaign stops, promising a stunning act of political escapology that would confound almost every major opinion poll.

The Republican nominee was racing through Florida, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Indiana, New Mexico and Nevada before heading home to Arizona for election day. Latest polls showed Obama stretching his lead nationwide, despite claims from the McCain camp that the race was tilting their way hours before the polls opened.

A new Wall Street Journal-NBC News poll put Obama ahead 51 percent to 43. A Washington Post-ABC News poll said the race was so far Obama's by 54 percent to 43, and Rasmussen said had him up 51 percent to McCain's 46. The final Gallup Daily tracking poll before the election day said Obama was leading the race 53 percent to 42 percent.

Democrats are also hoping to take a stranglehold on power in Washington on Tuesday, expecting major gains in the Senate where a third of the 100 seats were up for grabs, and in the House of Representatives where all 435 seats were on offer. Obama learned of his grandmother's passing before taking the stage for his first rally of the day in Jacksonville, Florida, but did not show any obvious sign of distress. "It is with great sadness that we announce that our grandmother, Madelyn Dunham , has died peacefully after a battle with cancer," Obama said in a joint statement with his sister Maya Soetoro-Ng. "She was the cornerstone of our family, and a woman of extraordinary accomplishment, strength, and humility."

In a highly unusual move just two weeks ago, Obama left the White House trail and made a pilgrimage to Dunham's side, saying he was not sure she would live until election day. Obama, who was deserted by his Kenyan-born father, knew Dunham as "Toot" and she was the last remaining link with his tight-knit older family, after the death of his mother from cancer more than a decade ago.

Earlier, shaking off his grief, Obama pumped up a screaming crowd in the Jacksonville Veterans' Memorial Arena, where McCain weeks ago delivered one of the campaign's defining remarks by declaring the teetering US economy fundamentally "strong." "I have just one word for you, Florida: tomorrow," Obama exclaimed, sparking deafening roars and chants of "Yes we can" from the crowd of more than 9,000.

McCain meanwhile swooped into an airport hangar in Blountville, Tennessee to rally loyal supporters in the solidly Republican state and neighboring Virginia. "I am so touched by this turnout. I'm so grateful for this expression of support," McCain told more than 1,000 people crammed into the cavernous hangar. The 72-year-old former prisoner of war in Vietnam defiantly predicted victory despite polls showing him lagging behind Obama.

The two rivals offer different routes out of the worst US economic crisis since the 1930s, and both promise to transform US foreign policy, though with sharply different approaches. Obama was to blitz through Florida, North Carolina and Virginia, bidding to turn the Republican bastions over to his side. While leading national polls by a wide margin, Obama also has smaller leads in battleground states where the election will be won and lost, though the McCain campaign argues the races are closing fast in favor of their candidate.

A Quinnipiac University poll examining the three toss-up states with the largest number of electoral votes -- Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida -- found Obama's lead had narrowed slightly to 51-42 in Ohio and 53-41 in Pennsylvania, with Florida too close to call. A separate poll by The Washington Post and ABC said that in six states considered to be up for grabs, support was roughly split with 51 percent support for Obama and 47 for McCain.

To win , a candidate needs to gain 270 votes in the Electoral College that formally selects the next president. States are apportioned electoral votes according to the size of their population and in most cases the winner of a state's popular vote gets all its electoral ones.

First polls open at six am (1130 GMT) nationwide and first state results are not expected until at least 7 pm (0000 GMT).

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