ATLANTA -- It was a day of pigeonholing and persuading here.

Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison is in the final 18 hours of his bid to become chair of the Democratic National Committee. Ellison's chief competitor is Obama administration Labor Secretary Tom Perez, though another five people are vying for the position.

The hotel where the DNC winter meeting is being held is littered with campaign signs. The 400-some voting delegates wearing blue nametags that say "DNC Member" are moving in and out of conference rooms and caucus meetings. Even if they're wearing a button that proclaims who they are voting for -- green buttons that say "KEITH" or blue ones that say "TOM"  -- they will be collared by one of the candidates or one of the candidates' representatives to try and secure a vote or a change of heart before Saturday. 

By all accounts, the race has tightened between Ellison and Perez, both of whom have conference rooms on the 12th floor and both of whom are trying to convince as many voting delegates as possible they can win. DNC organizers predict multiple rounds of ballots in a contest that could stretch all day. There hasn't been a contested DNC race like this for chair since the 1980s.

To win, the victor must clinch the majority of the votes cast.

Ellison reportedly has New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio coming down here to help him this evening. And, possibly, Rep. John Lewis, a civil rights icon and Democratic House member from the Atlanta suburbs.

"It's a dead heat in a merry go around," deadpanned J.P. Barone, a voting member from White Bear Lake in Minnesota and an Ellison supporter.

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