UPDATED 02/21/11 11:32 a.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) — The race for mayor is down to the home stretch, with polls set to open in less than 24 hours.

As CBS 2’s Susanna Song and Newsradio 780’s Mary Frances Bragiel report, the top candidates are crisscrossing the city, shaking every hand in sight.

At the 95th Street CTA Red Line terminal on the city’s South Side, Gery Chico spent time Monday morning greeting people and encouraging them to vote for him.

“Today, we’re going to be, in a very exciting way, crossing the city,” Chico said.

LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s Mary Frances Bragiel reports

The candidate says he plans to take Chicago Transit Authority transportation across the city, and he’s not wasting any time.

Polls show Chico trailing front-runner Rahm Emanuel, and Chico hopes he’ll pick up enough supporters to push the race into an April 5 runoff.

“I said, ‘Throw the polls away.’ The polls mean nothing today,” Chico said, “and I’m going to go, the voters are the boss, and they will determine who winds up in whatever place we have.”

The last-minute campaigning yielded one bizarre encounter.

The Braun campaign bus pulled up outside the Bronzeville restaurant where Emanuel was having lunch with a campaign co-chair.

It may have been an accidental encounter, but the Emanuel campaign had released its schedule for the day at 5 a.m., and look who showed up: Braun supporter Jesse Jackson Sr. 

“We came for the chicken, not for Rahm,” Jackson quipped.

Emanuel went over the greet Jackson. He also chatted with his former colleague in congress, Bobby Rush, another prominent Braun supporter

Earlier, Emanuel greeted voters at a Northwest Side retirement community, and also made an appearance at the Western Avenue Brown Line stop in Lincoln Square. He acknowledged the possibility of a runoff.

“That’s for the voters to decide,” Emanuel said. “The most important thing is, I think this is a critical election. This is important they turn out and vote.”

Emanuel says he’s excited about turning the city around, and pushing policies to improve schools, public safety and create new jobs.

That is the message the other candidates, including Carol Moseley Braun and Miguel del Valle are also spreading across the city today in pursuit of getting more voters tomorrow.

With the campaign in its 11th hour, Emanuel said he remains focused on voter outreach.

“First of all, as you know, this is, I think we’re close to the 110th ‘L’ stop I’ve visited; making sure that the voters know both my agenda for the future of the city,” Emanuel said.

Chico echoed the theme of a need for change.

“We need to take our city in a new direction; a new direction that provides jobs throughout this entire city for our working families,” Chico said.

Also campaigning at an ‘L’ stop, Del Valle said he is not worried about the perception that he is the underdog.

“Remember the last poll that was taken during the last election we had, that had (Bill) Brady winning by a lot until the very end?” Del Valle said. “The guy who was down in the polls is the guy who won the gubernatorial election.”

Carol Moseley Braun leaned on her big-name supporters on the last full day of campaigning.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson and U.S. Reps. Danny Davis and Bobby Rush appeared Monday with Braun at a South Side news conference. Braun predicted Tuesday’s election would end in an April runoff with her as one of the candidates.

Candidate William “Dock” Walls was also campaigning at the 95th Street Red Line stop, hoping to grab those who are undecided.

The polls open at 6 a.m. Tuesday. If no candidate wins more than 50 percent of the vote, there will be a runoff election in April between the top two contenders.