Washington: As Americans head to the polls on Tuesday, the tight White House race between President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney has narrowed to a fight over less than 10 states.
Obama’s strategy is to solidify his last line of defense in the industrial Midwest, and to try to pluck away several insurance states from Romney’s target list elsewhere.
The Republican challenger trails the president in polls in many of the battleground states but retains a narrow and plausible path to the 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency.
Romney’s camp argues that the challenger may not even be behind, claiming that state polls are based on unrealistic assumptions of the size of the Democratic slice of the electorate and underplay Republican enthusiasm.
Here is the state of play in swing states that will decide whether Obama wins a second term, or Romney recaptures the White House for Republicans.
The number of electoral votes each state has is in brackets.
Obama’s last line of defence
If Obama wins Ohio, Wisconsin and Iowa, and avoids any upsets on his turf, he is all but certain to become only the second Democrat to win two White House terms since World War II.
Romney spent months trying to tear the president’s Midwestern “firewall” but was hampered by an Obama advertising blitz hammering him as a wealthy plutocrat who disdains the middle class.
In most recent polls, Obama led Ohio between two and five points, an ominous sign for Romney, as no Republican since the Civil War has lost the state and gone on to win the White House.
Obama touts his bailout of the indebted auto industry in 2009 and Romney’s opposition to it, as one-in-eight jobs in the state are linked to the sector.
His team believes that Romney has undermined his hopes in Ohio by running an ad warning that Chrysler will outsource production of its Jeep vehicles to China, a charge the company’s CEO has said is false.
Obama leads an average of polls in Ohio by the RealClearPolitics (RCP) website by 2.9%.
Wisconsin has been solid Democratic territory for years: the last time a Republican won the state was Ronald Reagan in 1984.
But Republicans, who managed to repel an attempt by Democrats to oust Governor Scott Walker in a recall election this year, have a solid ground game in the state, and Romney’s running mate Paul Ryan is a local boy.
The president leads the RCP average by 4.2%.
Where it all started for Obama. The president built his grass roots operation in the agricultural heartland state and believes that after carving out an advantage in early voting, he has the edge on Romney.
Obama leads the RCP average in Iowa by 2.4%.
Up for grabs
The Sunshine State, the largest electoral battleground, is often decisive in presidential elections, but may not be the kingmaker this time. But Obama is competing fiercely there because if he wins, it is all but impossible for Romney to take the White House.
A punishing foreclosure crisis and an unemployment rate higher than the national average have many analysts expecting Florida to swing to Romney.
Obama has led several recent polls however, and if he can get a bumper turnout in Democratic strongholds in the southern part of the state, he could pull off a surprise.
Romney leads the RCP average by 1.5%.
Neither side seem to know whether the state will revert to Republicans after Obama became the first Democrat to win there since 1964. Obama needs to maximize turnout among students, and African American voters around the cities of Richmond and Norfolk.
Romney will count on old school conservatives in rural areas of the state and look to cut down on Obama’s margins with educated middle class voters in the Washington DC suburbs.
Currently, Obama leads the RCP average by 0.3%.
North Carolina (15)
The most likely state to move from Democratic to Republican because Obama won it by only 14,000 votes in 2008. Romney aides are certain their man will win, but the Obama camp has mobilized a massive early voting effort, which it says will keep the president competitive into election day.
Romney is up 3.8% in the RCP scoreboard.
Romney’s best chance to grab a western swing state. Obama is relying on women and Hispanic voters to keep him in the game here and currently heads the RCP average by 1.5%.
New Hampshire (4)
The flinty northeastern state with an independent streak knows Romney well after he served as governor of neighboring Massachusetts.
Obama won this state, in 2008 and leads the RCP average this year by 2.0%.
May be over
The Obama campaign says it has a substantial lead after early voting which means Romney needs to win big in election day voting.
Obama has a powerbase among Hispanic voters, and his trip to the bowels of a vast Las Vegas casino hotel to greet culinary workers a few weeks ago looks to have paid off.
Obama leads Nevada by 2.8% in the RCP average.
Romney’s last stand
Pennsylvania (20), Michigan (16), Minnesota (10)
Romney made a late swoop into Pennsylvania after ignoring the Keystone State for much of the campaign. Democrats say his move shows desperation and a recognition that he cannot get to 270 electoral votes elsewhere. Obama leads the RCP average by 3.8%.
Republicans have also made big advertising buys in Democratic states Minnesota, where Obama is up by 5.2 points, according to RCP and in Michigan where Obama leads by 4.0% in the averages.
Obama aide David Axelrod is so confident that he has offered to shave his trademark moustache if Romney wins any of the trio. AFP