The woman who raised Democratic Presidential candidate Barack Obama from the age of ten has died.

Her grandson is on the cusp of becoming the first African-American to win the highest office in America.

The candidate told a crowd of thousands of supporters in North Carolina last night that Madelyn Payne Dunham, 86, had “gone home.”

“She died peacefully in her sleep with my sister at her side. And so there is great joy as well as tears,” he said.

Last month Senator Obama broke from campaigning to visit his grandmother, a woman whose influence he repeatedly cited.

“She’s the one who taught me about hard work,” he said in his nomination acceptance speech in August.

“She’s the one who put off buying a new car or a new dress for herself so that I could have a better life. She poured everything she had into me.”

She died in Hawaii, where she and her husband had cared for a young Barack while his mother worked overseas.

“So many of us were hoping and praying that his grandmother would have the opportunity to witness her grandson become our next President,” Hawaii state Representative Marcus Oshiro told AP.

“What a bittersweet victory it will be for him.”

Republican candidate Senator John McCain and Senator Obama are in their home states today as an estimated 130m Americans go to the polls, the highest turnout since the 1960s.

27 million have already voted with absentee or early ballots.

The Governor of Florida has said that polling stations can stay open late to allow everyone to exercise their mandate.

Nearly all national polls show Senator Obama with 50% or more of likely voters.

In the key swing states of Ohio and Florida he is ahead, and may become the first Democratic Presidential candidate to win Virginia since 1964.

If he wins the majority of the vote he will be the first Democrat to do so since 1976.

Senator McCain campaigned in seven states yesterday.

“We are closing in the polls. All we got to do is get out the vote,” he said.

“Let’s go out and win this election and get our country going again.”

He will be out campaigning in the southwestern states today, in a final effort to get out the vote.

The electoral college system used to elect a President means that a number of swing states, among them Florida, Ohio, Virginia and Missouri, could give Senator Obama the votes needed to propel him into the White House.

A win for either candidate will be historic.

By tomorrow, either the oldest ever President-elect or the first-ever African-American President-elect will be preparing his transition team ahead of his inauguration on January 20th.