Voting begins as America decides

Election day will bring to an end a marathon two-year campaign for both Barack Obama and John McCain. Residents in the small village of Dixville Notch in New Hampshire have already cast their votes and have even declared their result, with Obama winning b

Meanwhile, the presidential rivals have been making a last frantic bid for votes, trading blows on the economy, jobs and foreign policy.

Republican John McCain has spent the last 24 hours racing through several swing states. At a rally in Indiana, McCain said he's confident of a win and urged supporters to keep up the fight until the end.

A record number of Americans are expected to vote in an election that could see the US elect its first black president. Although the polls indicate that Barack Obama will be the next president, Democrats remain fearful that victory will be snatched away at the last minute.

Some polls show that in a number of key battleground states, the gap between Barack Obama and John McCain has narrowed.

It’s led to talk in the U.S. of the possibility of the Bradley effect in this election. The theory proposes that some voters tell pollsters they are going to cast their ballots for an African American candidate. However, on Election Day they vote for a white one.

The phenomenon is named after black politician Tom Bradley. Polls predicted he would win the 1982 California’s governor race with a clear majority. But the electorate voted for his white opponent, George Deukmejian.

Last week, two white supremacists were charged with plotting to assassinate Obama. The plan was uncovered by federal agents who believed the skinheads also planned to kill over 100 African-American people.

Some Americans believe race will be a determining factor in this election.

“There will be people who vote against their own vested interest just because he is an African American,” one woman said.

“It’s been my fear from the beginning. It’s a racist nation. And it does worry me,” another one added.

However, others believe race won’t be the issue.

“As far as the white going against black – I don’t think this is happening at all,” a voter said.

“This is not an election on race this time. I guess American people are looking for a change,” another one said.

Obamamania sweeps Chicago

Barack Obama is preparing to head back to his hometown of Chicago. Although the politician commands an overwhelming majority of support in Illinois, where he started his political career, not all locals seem to be behind the senator.

Chicago's Hyde Park barber shop, where the U.S presidential candidate Barack Obama gets his haircut, has now attained celebrity status. It will attract dozens on election day for what's already being dubbed a “victory party”.

“Almost every household, every business, this TV is going to be on until Mr. Mc Cain comes out and concedes. We are very excited,” said Zariff, who has been Senator Obama's barber for 14 years.

“History hasn't been kind to our black leaders and I think this is one time it’s definitely going to go through. This is destiny. I truly believe that,” he added.

Despite Chicago, where the politician began as a community organiser, being in the grip of Obamamania, there are those who are bitterly skeptical.

Ray George started an anti-Obama blog, pointing to what he calls Obama's failures. He claims that so far Obama has not done anything significant for the city's community.

“We have the highest sales tax in the country, the highest gas tax. Yet we can not keep our impoverished neighbourhood in shape. Systematically something is wrong when you have six million fewer people than New York city and more murders,” he said.

However, Ray George seems to belong to the minority around these parts as most people look forward, with increasing confidence, to cheering their man on to the White House.

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