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29 electoral votes (an increase of two from the last election)

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Obama 4,143,957

McCain 3,939,380


18 electoral votes (a decrease of two from the last election)

Obama 2,708,685

McCain 2,501,855

Traditional swing states

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In this election, Florida and Ohio are living up to their reputations of being the big presidential swing states. Polls show the candidates are effectively tied in both places, making the race a virtual toss-up.

In Florida, all eyes are on the state's shifting demographics.

"The President's commanding lead in Florida among Jews has been sagging, his lead among Latinos has sharply narrowed, and seniors are restless," Mr. Rove noted.

Veterans are also a key constituency that is heavily concentrated in Florida, which has 1.6 million of them. Historically, the Republican Party has won majority support from veterans and active-duty soldiers. However, those numbers are becoming less certain, with votes appearing to be very much up for grabs.

During his presidency, Mr. Obama has proved surprisingly hawkish on national-security issues and has also moved to address the high levels of unemployment among veterans, even though some of those measures have been blocked by Republicans in Congress.

"There is nothing I take more serious than my responsibility to those who have risked their own safety to defend ours," Mr. Obama said in a recent video. "That's why Michelle and I have made supporting veterans and military families a top priority from the start."

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Mr. Romney, for his part, has attacked Mr. Obama's plans to cut billions from the defence budget and his administration's efforts to negotiate peace with the Taliban.

In Ohio, the race is equally tight.

The state is notorious for flipping back and forth between Republican and Democratic. It has proved impossible for a Republican to win the White House without Ohio.

But both candidates have struggled to connect with Ohio voters, about 54 per cent of whom are white and working class.

That demographic has been hit hard by the economic downturn, and is frustrated with Mr. Obama. Mr. Romney, however, is seen as an uninspiring alternative. Working in Mr. Obama's favour, the state's economy appears to be in an upswing – based on signs of renewal in the auto industry and better employment numbers. Mr. Romney, however, could rightfully argue that the state's economy is considerably weaker than when his rival took office.

"I'd say Ohio's going to be fought out to the very end. It will get decided by a point or two either way," Mr. Devine said.

Sonia Verma

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