LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
It's Election Day tomorrow in Canada, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is in the battle of his political life. The young liberal leader swept to power four years ago on a message of change and hope, but he's been implicated in a series of scandals. Polls show his Liberal Party narrowly behind the opposition Conservatives. David McGuffin reports from Ottawa.
DAVID MCGUFFIN, BYLINE: Barack Obama endorsed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau by tweeting this - the world needs Trudeau's progressive leadership now. And I hope our neighbors to the north support him for another term. Trudeau, dropping in the polls, welcomed the endorsement.
JUSTIN TRUDEAU: I appreciate the kind words, and I'm working hard to keep our progress going.
MCGUFFIN: Opposition Conservative leader Andrew Scheer did his best to brush it all off.
ANDREW SCHEER: I've got millions of Canadians like the ones here tonight behind me. I'm not very interested in what former foreign leaders are saying.
MCGUFFIN: Obama remains hugely popular with Canadians, unlike most of the leaders in this election, says Greg Weston, veteran Canadian political columnist and strategist.
GREG WESTON: This is an election, in many ways, that comes down to which of these candidates is a credible leader. The answer is, in most people's minds, none of the above. And so when someone as popular as Obama coming in and - endorsing Justin Trudeau could have a significant impact.
TRUDEAU: The Conservatives are the ones obsessed...
MCGUFFIN: Once a progressive poster boy, Trudeau's glow has since been dimmed by old-school political ethics violations and, at the start of this campaign, a scandal involving photos of him wearing blackface. But his main political rival, Conservative leader Andrew Scheer, has been unable to capitalize.
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: The next prime minister of Canada Andrew Scheer.
MCGUFFIN: At this rally in suburban Montreal, a couple of hundred Conservative supporters fill a ballroom to listen to Sheer push out his message of fiscal responsibility.
SCHEER: We have a plan to get back to balanced budgets over a responsible period of time so we can stop borrowing billions and billions.
MCGUFFIN: Tall, boyish unassuming and from middle-class roots, the 40-year-old Scheer is, in many ways, the opposite of the wealthy telegenic outgoing Trudeau. A devout Catholic and a married father of five, Scheer is a career politician who became the youngest speaker of the House of Commons at age 32. Isabelle Lapointe is a Conservative candidate from just outside Montreal.
ISABELLE LAPOINTE: He's a real person like you and I. He's a very family guy. He doesn't live in a golden tower. He's on the ground.
MCGUFFIN: But his Conservative Party faces an uphill battle in the crucial vote-rich province of Ontario. The provincial Conservative government there is deeply unpopular over cuts to health care and education. Voters could take their anger out on Scheer. And then there was the revelation that Scheer holds joint U.S. citizenship.
SCHEER: My dad was born in the United States. I grew up my whole life in Canada.
MCGUFFIN: Despite beginning the paperwork to renounce that U.S. citizenship, political analyst Greg Weston says it raises questions for some voters about whether Scheer's conservatism is less centrist and Canadian and more to the right and Republican.
WESTON: The Conservatives have always, always in this country been plagued by the notion they have a hidden agenda. And that hidden agenda that everybody fears the most is social conservatism and - are we going to be back into an abortion debate? Is somebody going to try to bring back capital punishment?
MCGUFFIN: The race tomorrow is still too close to call. But one thing is certain. If Andrew Scheer's Conservatives do win, he will be the first American prime minister in Canadian history.
For NPR News, I'm David McGuffin in Ottawa.
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