Obama votes as people line up to cast ballots

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Democrat Barack Obama joined the nation's earliest voters Tuesday as people around the nation began lining up to cast ballots in a historic election pitting Republican John McCain against the man seeking to become the first black president in U.S. history.

Obama votes in Illinois
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"I voted," Obama said, holding up the validation slip he was handed after turning in a ballot at his Chicago neighborhood's precinct. Accompanying the Illinois senator for the trip from their home to the polling station were his wife, Michelle, and their two young daughters. He planned a final campaign event in nearby Indiana before speaking to a massive evening rally in Chicago.

In Delaware, Democratic vice presidential candidate Joe Biden went to the polls with his elderly mother.

McCain was expected to vote later in the morning in Arizona before taking a last-minute trek to Colorado and New Mexico.

McCain's running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, arrived in Anchorage overnight to wait for polls to open in her hometown of Wasilla. She was to return to the airport to fly to Phoenix to join McCain in time to watch results come in.

Although the path to an Electoral College triumph appeared narrow for McCain - polls showed Obama with an advantage in many of the battleground states they have contested in the campaign's final weeks - the Arizona senator remained hopeful for a surprise victory.

"I think these battleground states have now closed up, almost all of them, and I believe there's a good scenario where we can win," McCain told CBS' "The Early Show" in an interview broadcast Tuesday.

"Look, I know I'm still the underdog, I understand that," McCain said. "You can't imagine, you can't imagine the excitement of an individual to be this close to the most important position in the world, and I'll enjoy it, enjoy it. I'll never forget it as long as I live."

Obama campaign manager David Plouffe said he was confident that new voters and young voters would fuel an enormous turnout to benefit the Illinois senator.

"We just want to make sure people turn out," Plouffe told "Today" on NBC. "We think we have enough votes around the country."

Standing in line in one of the battleground states, Ahmed Bowling of Alexandria, Va., said the election "will mark a significant change in the lives of all Americans, and so we do have to come out as early as possible to cast our votes."

In Brooklyn, N.Y., 49-year-old Venus Kevin said the line at her precinct was "already down the block and around the corner" when she arrived shortly before 6 a.m. EST.

"Obama is the man," said Kevin, who is black. "His message and his vision has reached a lot of people, not just African-Americans."

The contest put the 47-year-old Obama, a first-term Illinois senator who rocketed to stardom on the power of his oratory and a call for change, against the 72-year-old McCain, a 26-year lawmaker whose mettle was tested during 5 1/2 years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam.

"I'm feeling kind of fired up. I'm feeling like I'm ready to go," Obama told nearly 100,000 people gathered for his final rally Monday night in Virginia.

"At this defining moment in history, Virginia, you can give this country the change it needs," Obama said to voters in a state that hasn't voted for a Democratic presidential nominee in 44 years.

The Illinois senator's final day of campaigning was bittersweet: He was mourning the loss of his grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, who helped raise him. She died of cancer Sunday night, never to see the results of the election.

Nedra Pickler reported from Chicago and Beth Fouhy from Phoenix.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.