If there was any doubt that the US presidential fight hinges on Ohio, an awkward campaign airplane traffic jam at the Cleveland airport made it clear on Tuesday. Minutes after Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney touched down on the tarmac, Vice President Joe Biden swooped in on Air Force Two for an unannounced - but what the White House said was long-planned - visit.
Biden's move seemed aimed at dampening the challenger's 11th hour visit to the battleground state. Romney, who was waiting for running mate Paul Ryan to land, stayed onboard his plane until Biden boarded his motorcade and left the tarmac, which soon became even more crowded when Ryan's plane landed minutes later.
Only President Barack Obama, who is spending the day in Chicago, was missing from the dance of the jets. The awkward three-way stop underscored the importance of must-win Ohio for the presidential race as both sides battle for the White House in a race that polls show is virtually tied.
The Midwestern state is seen as the most critical in the candidates' race for the 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency. And no Republican has ever captured the White House without having Ohio in his column. "That sums up what is going on today.
Everyone is competing for that last vote," Stephanie Cutter, deputy manager for the Obama campaign, told Fox News. Biden, seeking a second term with Obama, made the stop before flying out to meet the president in Chicago, according to the White House.
From the airport the vice presidential motorcade headed to the Landmark Restaurant, a breakfast and lunch spot near Lake Erie, for some last-minute campaigning. Romney and Ryan are set to attend a campaign event in Cleveland later in the day. Earlier, Romney said he felt "great about Ohio."
President Barack Obama also made an unannounced stop in Chicago on Tuesday to thank his campaign workers.
(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle in Cleveland, additional reporting by Thomas Ferraro, writing by Susan Heavey in Washington; editing by Ros Krasny and Cynthia Osterman)