Washington George W. Bush and Al Gore campaigned Monday through the final hours of their run for the White House, seeking last-minute momentum in a costly and exhausting race to become the nation's 43rd president.
The Texas governor said he trusted that Americans had "heard our message" compassionate conservatism and a less intrusive government. The vice president urged a Democratic vote to maintain the nation's economic prosperity.
Gore anticipated a long count on Election Night, and joked that his first meal as president-elect would probably be breakfast.
"But I'm going to make it a Happy Meal from McDonald's," he told an Iowa audience.
In Florida, Bush was confident he would return Republicans to the presidency lost by his father in 1992.
"We've laid the groundwork for victory," he said, "now it's up (to us) to get people to the polls."
Candidates for the 107th Congress went through their final paces, Republicans and Democrats focusing their energy and money on four or five dozen highly contested races likely to determine control of the House and the Senate.
The airwaves were a blizzard of campaign advertising, with an advantage to Bush. From the start of his run through mid-October, the Texas governor had spent $138 million, including $56 million on radio and TV ads, according to the Campaign Study Group. Gore was at $94 million overall, including $41.5 million for broadcast ads.
The polls gave Bush a small edge in the popular vote, a position he gained after overtaking Gore in public opinion surveys during October. But the decisive Electoral College seemed less predictable. It takes 270 electoral votes, a majority, to win the White House. Key swing states included Florida (25 electoral votes); Pennsylvania (23); and Michigan (18); and an aggressive Bush campaign bid as well for Gore strongholds such as California (54) and Tennessee (11).
Some aides worried that Green Party candidate Ralph Nader would damage the vice president's chances of succeeding Bill Clinton by diluting the Democratic vote in swing states like Oregon and Wisconsin. Under pressure from Democratic liberals to back off, Nader countered: "The only wasted vote is for someone you don't believe in."
The candidates' itinerary and pace told the story on the final day of a long and costly campaign.
Gore embarked on a 30-hour nonstop journey beginning in Iowa, then heading to Missouri, Michigan and Florida before flying home early this morning to Nashville, Tenn.
Bush's schedule projected his confidence: from Gore's home state of Tennessee, the Texas governor flew to Wisconsin, Iowa and Arkansas, four states that Clinton carried twice, before returning to his residence in Austin, Tex.
One survey suggested that Bush headed into Election Day with his supporters more enthusiastic than Gore's backers, a potential advantage in a close race. The poll, by Pew Research Center, found that 32 percent of Bush's voters said they strongly support him, compared to 26 percent for Gore's supporters.
Just beneath the presidential line on the ballot, some of the most memorable congressional campaigns in years were nearing an end. Democrats need to gain eight seats to wrest control of the House; and five in the Senate.
Hillary Rodham Clinton, trying to make history as the first first lady to win a Senate seat, campaigned through New York with comedian Bill Cosby and Buffalo Bills quarterback Doug Flutie.
"I know some people say she is from out of state," said Flutie. "Doug Flutie's from out of state but we fight hard. We try to deliver for Buffalo and she will too." Her opponent, Rep. Rick Lazio, sought support in the New York City suburbs.
In next-door New Jersey, investment banker Jon Corzine tested the limits of self-financing. Dipping into his own pocketbook for a record $50 million or more, he faced a surprising challenge from Rep. Bob Franks.
Half a continent away, Gore made a pitch for the late Missouri Gov. Mel Carnahan, whose name remains on the ballot for a Senate seat. "You know what we say, keep the fires burning," the vice president said in St. Louis. "It means to vote for Mel Carnahan and send his partner, who shares his hopes and values, to the United States Senate." Carnahan's widow, Jean, has said she would accept appointment to the Senate if her late husband is victorious against Sen. John Ashcroft on Tuesday.
Among the House races, Rep. Jim Rogan fought to hold his seat in southern California in an $8 million battle with State Sen. Adam Schiff that will end up to be the costliest House race in history. The results will be closely watched in Washington where Rogan was a leader in the successful effort to impeach Clinton.
The political parties assembled massive get-out-the-vote operations.
Karl Rove, Bush's chief strategist, said that in the campaign's final 10 days, the governor's operation would place 70 million phone calls, send 110 million pieces of mail and deploy 243,000 volunteers in 28 states.
Democrats geared up too, buttressed by allies in organized labor and a celebrity or two. Party officials said 100,000 get-out-the-vote volunteers would make 50 million phone calls by election day and transmit 30 million e-mails. Actors Jimmy Smits and Janelle Maloney, of "The West Wing," were on the final day of a three-day fly-around for Democratic candidates, with stops in Iowa, Wisconsin and Illinois.
"Go door to door and keep working the phone banks," Republican vice presidential candidate Dick Cheney told volunteers in Nevada.
Sen. Joseph Lieberman, Gore's running mate, placed get-out-the-vote calls in St. Paul, Minn. "Hey Marie, believe it or not, this is Joe Lieberman. I am running for vice president," he told one skeptical voter.