(NBC News) -- President Barack Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney set about a “barnburner” of a schedule on Monday, the penultimate day of the 2012 election, courting voters in the must-win states of the 2012 campaign.
Romney was set to make a four-state tour through Florida, Virginia and Ohio – states that are critical to his hopes of becoming president – before concluding in New Hampshire, the cornerstone of Romney’s victory in the GOP presidential primary earlier this year, and the state neighboring Massachusetts, where Romney served as governor and his campaign is now headquartered.
But Romney’s campaign also made late plans to take the unusual state of adding additional campaign stops on Election Day itself.
His campaign said Romney would visit Cleveland, having trailed Obama by a slim but consistent margin in post public polls. And Romney would make his second trip to Pennsylvania, a state in which Republicans have made a late play in hopes of expanding Romney’s path to 270, when he visits Pittsburgh.\
Their schedules, coming on the heels of a jam-packed weekend of campaigning across the country by both the candidates and their surrogates, was nothing short of a “barnburner,” as Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan put it at first rally of the day, in Nevada.
“We're doing a barnburner today,” Ryan said in the state, which is seen as leaning toward Obama in NBC News’ battleground map. “We are crisscrossing the country – Mitt and I are because we are asking you to work with us, to stand with us to get our country back on the right track.”
Both Obama and Romney stuck to well-worn scripts that they had used throughout the frenetic final days of the campaign. The candidates at times seemed to acknowledge that much of the campaign’s outcome might be out of their hands, pleading with supporters to sway a winnowing number of swing voters over to their cause.
“Your voices are being heard all over the nation loud and clear, thank you,” Romney said in Virginia. “I also want to thank many of you in this crowd that have been out there working on the campaign – making calls from the victory centers, and by putting up a yard sign, in your neighbor’s yard and maybe convincing a coworker to vote for Paul Ryan and me.”
Obama kicked off his first rally of the day with rocker Bruce Springsteen, who would hitch a ride with the president to Columbus for an afternoon rally, which was also to feature rapper Jay-Z.
"I get to fly around with him on the last day I'll ever campaign, so that's not a bad way to end things," he said of Springsteen, who will accompany Obama to Columbus, Ohio, on Air Force One.
Both Obama and Romney’s schedules, though, sent a powerful signal about their fundamental strategy for Election Day.
The states Romney is visiting, for instance, are virtually essential for his hopes come Tuesday. Failing to win Florida, for instance, would force Romney to have to win every single other remaining battleground state.
Obama’s stops, meanwhile, suggested attentiveness to his so-called “firewall,” which Republicans have argued is cracking amid surging Republican enthusiasm in battleground states.
Vice President Joe Biden, during a stop at a cafe in Sterling, Va., predicted the bloc would hold.
“I think we’ll win Ohio, I think we’ll win Wisconsin, I think we’ll win Iowa. I think we’ll win Nevada, I think we’ll win new Hampshire,” he told reporters. He added that Florida would be “close,” but said he thought “have a real shot of winning” the Sunshine State.
As they made their final arguments to sprawling crowds throughout the day, both Romney and Obama got an assist from additional superstars who entertained audiences before rallies had begun.
Obama was traveling with Springsteen and Jay-Z on Monday, but Katy Perry and John Mellencamp had played before other Obama audiences over the weekend. Romney’s rally on Monday in Ohio was also slated to feature the Marshall Tucker Band.
Both Springsteen and Jay Z each did special songs for the Obama campaign, in Jay Z's case, changing an epithet in one of his songs to reference Romney instead.
"If you're having world problems, I feel bad for you son," he said, "I got 99 problems, but Mitt ain't one."