On the eve of the U.S. election, both presidential candidates embraced defined roles: Democrat Barack Obama as the confident frontrunner, Republican John McCain as the gritty underdog.

"We are one day away from changing the United States of America," Obama said, who could become the first black U.S. president -- something that many Americans thought was not possible when he began his run for the White House two years ago.

Obama defined himself early as the "change" candidate in the election, but McCain promised that he would turn the page on the George W. Bush era, while warning of his opponent.

"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 sharper while campaigning in Ohio. "Now is not the time to experiment with socialism," she said. "Our opponent's plan is just for bigger government."

Both candidates will be appearing on Monday Night Football, for one last widely-viewed television appeal to undecided voters.

Heading into Tuesday's election, Obama had a strong advantage in the polls in the battleground states according to Real Clear Politics' tracking of major polls:

  • Florida: Obama +1.8
  • North Carolina: McCain +0.6
  • Virginia: Obama +4.3
  • Ohio: Obama + 3.2
  • Missouri: McCain +0.5
  • Colorado: Obama +5.5
  • Nevada: Obama +6.2
  • Pennsylvania Obama +7.6

With an exception of Pennsylvania, those are states that the Republicans won in the 2004 U.S. election. McCain needs to virtually sweep all of them to have a shot at the 270 electoral votes needed to win the White House.

Respected pollster Nate Silver, of fivethirtyeight.com, put McCain's chance at winning Tuesday at 1.9 per cent.

Raymond Chretien, a former Canadian ambassador to the United States, said on CTV Newsnet Monday evening that he was convinced that Obama had the election wrapped up.

McCain's frenzied Monday sprint

McCain is visiting seven states Monday trying to stall Obama's momentum as polls show him with a significant lead. His running mate, Sarah Palin, will be visiting an additional four states.

The Arizona senator began his day in Tampa, urging Florida voters to help him win the state and the election.

"With this kind of enthusiasm, this kind of intensity we will win Florida and we will win the election," McCain told a modestly attended outdoor rally Monday.

In Tennessee, where media markets reach into Virginia, McCain attacked Obama's economic policies.

"Senator Obama's massive new tax increase would kill jobs and make a bad economy worse -- I'm not going to let that happen," McCain told supporters.

He also said Obama was running to become "redistribution-in-chief" while he was running to become "commander-in-chief."

McCain was scheduled to visit Pennsylvania, Indiana, New Mexico and Nevada before ending early Tuesday with a rally in Prescott, Ariz.

McCain will then return home to Phoenix.

CTV's Joy Malbon said that supporters at the McCain campaign headquarters are confident that he has a narrow path to victory by winning over the majority of the small number of undecided voters.

Sadness for Obama

Tragically, Obama announced Monday that his ailing grandmother passed away in Hawaii, only hours before seeing if her grandson makes U.S. history.

"It is with great sadness that we announce that our grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, has died peacefully after a battle with cancer. She was the cornerstone of our family, and a woman of extraordinary accomplishment, strength, and humility," said a statement from Obama and his sister Maya Soetoro-Ng.

Obama took time off from the election campaign in October to visit his 86-year-old grandmother, who helped raise him.

He learned of her death while campaigning in Jacksonville, Fla.

Obama spoke of his grandmother publicly in North Carolina Monday evening, calling her a "quiet hero" and was moved to tears when describing her.

"In this crowd there are a lot of quiet heroes like that," he said. "The satisfaction that they get is seeing their children, or maybe their grandchildren, or maybe their great-children, live a better life than they did.

"That's what America is about . . . and in just one day we have the opportunity to honour all those quiet heroes."

Obama confident before election

Obama got off to a later start than McCain Monday and seemed confident of his chances.

"I feel pretty peaceful," Obama said on the "Russ Parr Morning Show."

"The question is going to be who wants it more," he added. "And I hope that our supporters want it bad, because I think the country needs it."

Obama spent Sunday in Ohio, the key battleground state of this election. Without a win there, McCain's road to 270 electoral votes becomes highly implausible.

In Ohio, a state won by the past 11 U.S. presidents, most polls show Obama with a three to five point lead over McCain. One poll does give McCain a one point lead.

"It's a real toss-up state and it's right down to the wire," CTV's Lisa LaFlamme, reporting from a campaign rally for vice-presidential candidate Palin in Ohio, said Monday.

LaFlamme said the message from both sides is to get out and vote.

"For both sides, voter turnout here is going to be key to their success or defeat," she said.

LaFlamme said African-Americans in Ohio have been turning out to vote in unprecedented numbers -- many for the first time in their lives.

They were "utterly in disbelief that it is within their grasp that an African American could in fact be the president of the United States," she said.

Obama in GOP strongholds

Obama is focusing his stops Monday in three longtime GOP strongholds, which are leaning Democrat in this election.

He is beginning with a midday rally in Jacksonville and will then head to events in Virginia and North Carolina.

"I feel pretty peaceful," Obama said on the "Russ Parr Morning Show" on Monday.

"The question is going to be who wants it more," he added. "And I hope that our supporters want it bad, because I think the country needs it."

On Election Day, both candidates will break with tradition and campaign. McCain is scheduled to make stops in Colorado and New Mexico while Obama will visit Indiana before returning to Chicago for a huge rally in Grant Park -- where as many as 1 million people are expected to attend.

On the weekend, both campaigns switched into "Get out the vote" mode in more than a dozen battleground states, setting the stage for the climax of the $1 billion race for the presidency.

Thousands of volunteers knocked on doors and made phone calls for each campaign in battleground states.

"The key thing that the Democrats are trying to key in on is making sure that people actually go out and vote," CTV's Scott Laurie, reporting from Chicago, said Monday.

"That they don't think that because Barack Obama has a seven point or eight point lead that this is in the bag."

Where's the president?

Both candidates had surrogates such as Democrat Caroline Kennedy or Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney making the rounds on morning shows trying to get the party faithful out to vote.

Normally, the incumbent president would be making the rounds for his party's chosen successor, but not this year.

In fact, George W. Bush has not been seen in public, except for getting in and out of transportation, since Thursday. McCain has also increased his criticism of the historically unpopular Bush in the final weeks of the campaign.

Dick Cheney however, endorsed McCain over the weekend, causing Obama to quickly incorporate the endorsement into his stump speech.

As of Saturday, about 27 million absentee and early votes had been cast in 30 states. Democrats outnumbered Republicans according to exit polls in key states.

Many Democrats said they were voting early because of fears about their vote on Election Day. There have already been numerous reports of voting problems, from three hour waits to vote machines switching votes, in many states, including Ohio and Florida.

Unlike in Canada, there is no federal voting body in the U.S. Instead there is a patchwork system of hundreds of state and local electoral authorities.

The Obama campaign already has 10,000 lawyers signed up via their website to help with potential voting problems.

With files from The Associated Press