(Bloomberg) — President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are both running against history — the only question now is who will defy it to win the presidency.

Obama is seeking to overcome the drag of high unemployment and economic weakness that has frustrated predecessors’ re-election bids, while his Republican rival Romney reaches for an upset to propel him beyond his party’s standing and swamp an electoral map stacked against him on the final day of the presidential race.

A victory for Obama, to whom the contest has tilted in recent days, would make him the first president in two decades to be re-elected with a jobless rate above 6% — and only the second since World War II.

For Romney, a win would mark one of the few times that a challenger heading a party regarded less favorably than the one holding the White House has prevailed — and a triumph over Electoral College math that has shown a slim edge for Obama in recent days.

With the hours ticking down until polls close, Romney scheduled last-minute visits to Ohio and Pennsylvania today in a final effort to shake loose enough votes to put him over the top. He voted this morning in Belmont, Mass., accompanied by his wife, Ann, and his son Tagg and his wife, Jennifer.

“The same course we’re on isn’t going to lead to a better destination,” Romney told supporters at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., Monday. “Unless we change course, we may also be looking at another recession.”

Obama, who voted early in Chicago last month and plans an election night party in his hometown, prodded his supporters to “go vote” as his campaign worked an elaborate turnout plan five years in the making.

“You may not agree with every single decision that I’ve made,” the president told voters yesterday in Columbus, Ohio. “You know that I mean what I say, and I say what I mean.”

The final polls in a campaign that has seen large swings in public opinion almost unanimously pointed to momentum in Obama’s favor. Yet after the most costly presidential contest in history at $2.6 billion — as well as one of the longest — the surveys also suggested the race remains exceptionally close until the end, with the candidates vying for advantage both nationally and in crucial battleground states.

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