U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during a campaign rally at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, October 17, 2012. (Photo : Reuters)
While President Obama continues to trail Republican challenger Mitt Romney in the national polls of the popular vote, he is holding his ground in crucial swing states.
Due to the quirky math of the Electoral College, whichever candidate wins each state receives all of its electoral votes. Since most states will definitely go for one candidate or the other, the election will be decided by those states which might swing either way.
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Currently there are 11 states that fall into this category: Colorado, Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, Iowa, Wisconsin, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Nevada and Ohio.
Together they constitute a total of 141 electoral votes, more than enough to put either candidate above the 270 votes needed to win the presidency.
One poll in Michigan today shows Obama with a substantial lead, but Michigan has been assumed to be in Obama's corner for a while.
However, another poll today puts North Carolina deep in Romney territory. North Carolina went blue in 2008, the first time the state has elected a Democrat for president since 1976. This year it looks like it will stay red, and Romney welcomes its 15 electoral votes.
In the most likely scenario, Obama falls 17 electoral votes shy of winning outright. Ohio's 18 electoral votes would put him over top. In the same scenario, even if Romney takes every other state (which isn't very likely), he is still 3 votes shy of a win. He needs Ohio, a state without which no Republican has ever won the presidency.
If Romney is unable to win Ohio, his options shrink substantially. He'll need to take Florida, Virginia and North Carolina (likely), as well as New Hampshire, Colorado and Iowa (less likely), and one more state, but only Nevada, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin remain possible pick-ups for the Republican.
Currently, Obama is leading by close to double digits in Pennsylvania, unions are rumbling their discontent with the Republicans in Wisconsin and Latinos stand by Obama in Nevada.
Ohio is the prize in this race, and the candidates have spent $93 million on ads in the state so far. Expect them to spend a whole lot more before it's over.
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