CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Get ready for an all-out brawl in 10 too-close-to-call battleground states as President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney begin a two-month sprint to Election Day.
They will deluge those states with personal visits, stacks of direct mail, automated phone calls and an unprecedented barrage of TV ads.
Theyll probably all but ignore the rest of America.
Florida and Ohio may matter most. No Republican has won the presidency without winning Ohio, and Floridas 29 electoral votes more than 10 percent of the 270 needed to win are the biggest swing state prize.
The candidates will be dueling for support from a relative handful of undecided voters. This intense dash to Nov. 6 could well be decided in a series of debates next month, including one Oct. 22 in Boca Raton. If Obama holds the states polls say are now firmly his, hed have 221 electoral votes, including Californias 55 and New Yorks 29. Romney is considered a safe bet so far for 191 electoral votes, notably Texas 38.
With dispatches from McClatchy newspapers around the country, heres a state-by-state look:
FLORIDA (29 electoral votes)
With a history of tight elections and a population that resembles the nations, Florida is the ultimate battleground state.
Florida reflects the nation: the southeast of the state is akin to the Northeastern United States; Southwest Florida is tied to the Midwest, and North Florida is like the Deep South. Then theres Miami-Dade, the states largest and most Hispanic county, which functions as a Latin American capital.
Romney and supporters have dumped an estimated $45 million on television ads in Florida just for the general election. Obama and his allies have spent about $25 million. The Republicans held their convention in the Tampa Bay area, the most hotly contested battleground region of the state.
Romney holds an edge in money, but Obamas so-called ground-game organization of thousands of volunteers and nearly 100 field offices appears unmatched.
The two are essentially tied, with Obama narrowly ahead of Romney by an inside-the-error margin lead of about two percentage points, according to the averages of the latest reputable statewide polls. The president can win without Florida, said Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, a Democrat. If he wins Florida, its a slam dunk.
Marc Caputo The Miami Herald
OHIO (18 electoral votes)
Ohio loves its reputation as one of the most unpredictable of the bellwether states, and 2012 is no exception. Obama has visited the Buckeye State 27 times since taking office in 2009, including 11 this year. Romney has been to the state 13 times since last year.
Obama and Romney are locked in a statistical dead heat in Ohio. The Columbus Dispatch recently recorded its closest presidential poll in modern history, with Romney leading Obama by only 0.22 percentage points, a figure well within the surveys margin of error.
As in other states, the economy is the dominant issue in Ohio, and voters appear evenly divided on whether Obama or Romney would provide better leadership on the issue.
Though Ohio is a Rust Belt state, its doing better on jobs compared with other parts of the country. The states July unemployment rate was 7.2 percent lower than the nations 8.1 percent jobless rate.