US presidential election: The battlegrounds
The key States at playOhio
18 electoral votes
As Ohio goes, so does the nation. It’s difficult to see Mitt Romney heading to the White House without winning the Buckeye state. It has picked the winning presidential candidates in the last 12 elections.
This is a state that has everything: rural voters, minority voters and cities where manufacturing industries which have been in long-term decline.
Romney is drawing significant support from the suburbs of the big cities, as well as strong backing in “coal country” in the southeast.
But Barack Obama hopes that a slowly improving economy here – unemployment is below the national average – and the successful bailout of the car industry will bolster his chances, particularly in the industrialised north.
Polls have consistently showed that Obama is holding a slight advantage. The Democrats’ well-organised ground game and huge focus on early voting have given the party a head-start. It remains to be seen if Republicans can overtake them on polling day.
6 electoral votes
The Hawkeye state launched President Barack Obama in the 2008 campaign but turned against the Democrats in congressional elections in 2010. ow faces a major challenge in retaining it.
Mitt Romney and Republicans have spent months on the attack in the state, which has kept the president’s ratings lower than adjacent states. Social issues such as abortion are likely to be major issues here.
Of the roughly three million Iowans, almost a third call themselves evangelical or Catholic.
Obama and vice-president Joe Biden – a Catholic – won a majority of the Catholic vote last time out. This time, however, Romney is accompanied by Catholic vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan.
In a tight election, the state’s six electoral college votes will be vital for either campaign.
29 electoral votes
Barack Obama carried the Sunshine State in 2008, one of the most famous battleground states of all. However, a wave of home foreclosures and a sluggish economy has made his path to victory in Florida much more difficult this time around.
Mitt Romney’s victory could depend on whether he can win over enough Hispanic voters in southern Florida and Puerto Ricans in central Florida.
Florida’s unemployment rate – 8.7 per cent, compared to the nation’s 7.9 per cent – should help Romney’s economic argument against Obama.
Another encouraging sign for the challenger is that Republicans cleaned up here during the 2010 mid-term elections.
A well-organised Democratic machine on the ground and an increasingly diverse population, will give Obama hope.
Both candidates have made dozens of appearances in the Sunshine State and have poured an estimated $130 million into advertising campaigns.
Florida is proving to be an expensive and frustrating state for both candidates.
13 electoral votes
Virginia is a new swing state. Traditionally a red state, Barack Obama surprised
many by winning it by seven percentage points last time out, the first time in 40 years that the state went blue.
This race this time will be much closer. Obama has targeted the populous northeast, which is strongly Democratic, while Mitt Romney has tended to focus on the rest of the state where the military and coal industry are the big employers.
The state’s changing demographics – an increase in the minority population, plus the increase in young white college graduates living in the state – has contributed
to the state becoming more friendly to Democrats in recent years.
Polls, however, indicate the race is extremely tight this time.
9 electoral votes
Barack Obama’s victory by nine percentage points here was key in 2008, given thatthe state had voted for a Republican in eight of the
last nine presidential elections. Obama faces challenges in the mountainous west and south, but has strong support in cities such as Denver and Boulder.
His campaign has been aggressively targeting the Hispanic vote, which could be crucial in the final shake-up.
Mitt Romney, too, faces a challenge in winning enough votes in some of the bigger cities, but has strong support elsewhere. The Republicans claim to have the edge in early voting.
One encouraging sign for Obama: the state elected a Democratic senator and governor in 2010.
The big question in Colorado relates to the independent vote. Voters registered as “unaffiliated” are many, equal to the total number of registered Democrats and Republicans there. It makes this one of the toughest states to call.
10 electoral votes
This Democrat-leaning state wasn’t supposed to be a battleground for the Obama camp.However a narrowing of the race and Mitt Romney’s addition of Michigan’s Paul Ryan as vice-presidential candidate has transformed it into a fiercely contested swing state. No Republican has carried the state at presidential level since 1984.
There have been encouraging signs, though – the party made major gains in 2010, winning the governor’s seat and ousting a Democratic Senate incumbent.
Latest polls show the race has narrowed quite significantly.