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Obama, McCain promise change on election eve

TAMPA, Fla. - Barack Obama radiated confidence and John McCain displayed the grit of an underdog Monday as the presidential rivals reached for the finish line of a two-year marathon with a burst of campaigning across battlegrounds from the Atlantic Coast to Arizona.

'We are one day away from change in America,' said Obama, a Democrat seeking to become the first black president - a dream not nearly as distant on election eve as it once was.

McCain, too, promised to turn the page of the era of George W. Bush, and he warned about his opponent's intentions. 'Sen. Obama is in the far left lane' of politics, he said. 'He's more liberal than a guy who calls himself a Socialist and that's not easy.'

Republican running mate Sarah Palin was even more pointed as she campaigned in Ohio. 'Now is not the time to experiment with socialism,' she said. 'Our opponent's plan is just for bigger government.'

Late-season attacks aside, Obama led in virtually all the pre-election polls in a race where economic concerns dominated and the war in Iraq was pushed - however temporarily - into the background.

While the overall number of early votes was unknown, statistics showed more than 29 million ballots cast in 30 states and suggested an advantage for Obama. Democrats voted in larger numbers than Republicans in North Carolina, Colorado, Florida and Iowa, all of which went for President Bush in 2004.

Democrats also anticipated gains in the House and in the Senate, although Republicans battled to hold their losses to a minimum and a significant number of races were rated as tossups in the campaign's final hours.

By their near-non-stop attention to states that voted Republican in 2004, both Obama and McCain acknowledged the Democrats' advantage in the presidential race.

The two rivals both began their days in Florida, a traditionally Republican state with 27 electoral votes where polls make it close.

Obama drew 9,000 or so at a rally in Jacksonville, while across the state, a crowd estimated at roughly 1,000 turned out for McCain.

One day before the election, no battleground state was left unattended.

But Virginia, where no Democrat has won in 40 years, and Ohio, where no Republican president has ever lost, seemed most coveted. Together, they account for 33 electoral votes that McCain can scarcely do without.

Democratic volunteers in Maryland, a state safe for Obama, called voters in next-door Virginia, where McCain trailed in the polls. The Democratic presidential candidate's visit to Virginia during the day was his 11th since he clinched the nomination.