DOSWELL, Va. — Five days before the election, Republican challenger Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama vied forcefully for the mantle of change Thursday in a country thirsting for it after a painful recession and uneven recovery, pressing intense closing arguments in their close race for the White House. Early voting topped 20 million ballots.
A three-day lull that followed Superstorm Sandy ended abruptly, the president campaigning briskly across three battleground states and Romney piling up three stops in a fourth.
The storm intruded once again into the race, as New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg endorsed the president in a statement that said Sandy, which devastated his city, could be evidence of climate change.
The ever-present polls charted a close race for the popular vote, and a series of tight battleground surveys suggested neither man could be confident of success in the competition for the 270 electoral votes that will decide the winner.
Obama's aides left North Carolina off the president's itinerary in the campaign's final days, a decision that Republicans trumpeted as a virtual concession of the state. Yet Romney's team omitted Ohio and Wisconsin from a list of battlegrounds where they claimed narrow advantage.
In a possible boost for Obama, government and private sources churned out a spate of encouraging snapshots on the economy, long the dominant issue in the race. Still, none of the day's measurements packed the political significance of the campaign's final report on unemployment, due out today.