Americans vote after long and bitter campaign for White House – Yahoo! News

By Matt Spetalnick and John Whitesides | Reuters – 1 hr 33 mins ago

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney battled down to the wire on Tuesday, mounting a last-minute Election Day drive to get their supporters to the polls in a handful of states that will decide the winner in a neck-and-neck race for the White House.

Capping a long and bitter campaign, Americans began casting 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.

Their decision 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.

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.

Romney, the multimillionaire former head of a private equity firm, would be the first Mormon president and one of the wealthiest Americans to occupy the White House. Obama, the first black president, is vying to be the first Democrat to win a second term since Bill Clinton in 1996.

Whichever candidate wins, a razor-thin margin would not bode well for the clear mandate needed to break the partisan gridlock in Washington.

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