|– With just two weeks to go before the U.S. presidential election, the campaigns increasingly focus on battleground states where opinion polls show Democrat Barack Obama with a significant lead on Republican rival John McCain.|
Obama leads in all of the states won by Democrat John Kerry in 2004 as well as in several states won by Republican President George W. Bush, recent polls show, maintaining a lead that he opened as the financial crisis moved to center stage in the campaign.
Obama or McCain need 270 electoral votes to win the Electoral College and capture the White House in the Nov. 4 election.
The president is determined not by the most votes nationally, but by a majority of the Electoral College, which has 538 members allotted to all 50 states and the District of Columbia in proportion to their representation in Congress.
Each state, except Maine and Nebraska, awards its votes to the candidate who gets the most votes in the state. Maine and Nebraska split them by congressional district.
Here are some battleground states with their electoral vote totals, 2004 results and recent details about the contests in each state.
Colorado – Nine electoral votes. Bush beat Kerry 52 percent to 47 percent in the state in 2004, but since then, Democrats have won the state Legislature and governor's office. A poll on Monday showed Obama up by 5 points.
Florida – 27 electoral votes. Bush beat Kerry 52 percent to 47 percent in a state known for the disputed result that decided the 2000 election. Florida is a classic swing state with a heavy concentration of older voters who could favor McCain. It also has many Jewish voters who are normally Democratic but have been wary of Obama. A Monday poll had McCain ahead by 1 point, although three other recent polls have all given Obama narrow lead in a state that McCain must win to take the presidency.
Indiana – 11 electoral votes. Bush beat Kerry by 20 points in 2004 in a state that last voted for a Democrat in 1964. But it borders Obama's native Illinois and he has poured resources into his Indiana campaign after finishing a strong second to Sen. Hillary Clinton in the May Democratic primary. Republicans have begun to advertise there, but polls have shown Obama closing the gap. The two most recent polls gave McCain leads of 5 and 7 points.
Michigan – 17 electoral votes. Kerry won by 3 points in 2004. The state's depressed economy and ailing manufacturing base make it a prime target for competing arguments on the economy, although McCain pulled out of Michigan earlier this month after Obama appeared to have secured an unassailable lead. A poll last week had Obama up by 16 points.
Missouri – 11 electoral votes. Bush beat Kerry 53 percent to 46 percent in 2004 in a classic battleground with a mix of urban centers in Kansas City and St. Louis and conservative rural areas more aligned culturally with the South. The race looks tight, with two recent polls putting Obama ahead by 5 and 6 points and two others showing McCain ahead by smaller margins.
New Hampshire – Four electoral votes. Kerry beat Bush by 1 point in 2004. McCain's history of big primary wins in New Hampshire in 2000 and this year gives him hope he can take the state in November. Democrats captured both the state's seats in Congress and gained control of the state Legislature in 2006 in an anti-Republican wave on which Obama hopes to capitalize. Four recent polls show Obama leading by 7 to 13 points.
New Mexico – Five electoral votes. Bush beat Kerry by fewer than 6,000 votes in 2004. As the senator from neighboring Arizona, McCain is familiar to many New Mexico voters, but he will have to battle Obama for the growing bloc of Hispanics, who make up more than 40 percent of the state's population. Four recent polls put Obama ahead by 5 to 8 points.
Nevada – Five electoral votes. Bush beat Kerry by 20,000 votes in 2004 in a state won by Republicans in eight of the past 10 presidential elections. As in New Mexico, the burgeoning Hispanic population will be crucial – it now makes up nearly a quarter of Nevada's residents. A poll last week gave Obama a 3-point lead.
North Carolina – 15 electoral votes. Bush beat Kerry by 12 points in 2004, even though the Democratic vice presidential nominee, John Edwards, was from the state. More than one-fifth of the population is black and an influx of transplants to high-tech urban areas like Charlotte and the Research Triangle of Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill have given Obama a chance. Two polls on Monday gave Obama leads of 3 and 7 points, although earlier surveys had the race essentially tied.
Ohio – 20 electoral votes. Bush beat Kerry by about 120,000 votes in the state that ultimately decided the 2004 race. No Republican has won the White House without Ohio, and McCain will have a hard time piecing together a win without the state. Polls vary widely, with one Monday survey putting McCain up by 2 points and another awarding Obama a 9-point lead.
Pennsylvania – 21 electoral votes. Kerry beat Bush 51 percent to 48 percent in 2004, but Pennsylvania is one of a handful of states won by Kerry where McCain's camp had seen a chance to reverse the result. The most recent poll showed Obama up by 8 points, while earlier surveys had given him a double-digit lead in the state.
Virginia – 13 electoral votes. Bush won fairly easily by 9 points in 2004 in a state that has not gone Democratic in a presidential election since 1964. But Virginia's trend has been toward Democrats in recent state elections amid dramatic growth in the Democratic-leaning northern suburbs of Washington, D.C. Two polls this week gave Obama leads of 6 and 10 points.
Wisconsin – 10 electoral votes. Kerry won by 11,000 votes out of more than 3 million in 2004, but Obama has held a lead for months in a state where he crushed Hillary Clinton in a February Democratic primary showdown. A Monday poll gave Obama an 8-point lead.