Both campaigns made stops in New Hampshire on Friday, the first day after the conventions, underscoring the competitive nature of the race. Lesley Clark Washington Bureau
COLORADO (9 electoral votes)
Young voters and Latinos helped Obama win Colorado by nine percentage points in 2008, with rapidly changing demographics turning the once reliably-Republican state into a toss-up.
The states voters are nearly evenly split about one-third each Republican, Democratic and unaffiliated.
Latino voters, who could make up 8 percent or more of the electorate this year, are likely to be critical to the outcome, as are suburban women. Obama did well with Latinos and women voters in 2008, said Kyle Saunders, a political science professor at Colorado State University.
But the unemployment rate remains above 8 percent, and Saunders said the sputtering economy may still hurt Obama.
David Sider The Sacramento Bee
IOWA (6 electoral votes)
Both candidates made treks to Iowa on Friday on the first day after the conventions, a testament to its outsized role in the election.
In between their personal visits, the fight is playing out on the states television screens. Since May 1, the Obama campaign purchased more than $12 million in ad time, according to figures compiled by The National Journal, enormous spending for the relatively small media markets in the state. The Romney campaign has spent less $7.2 million but outside groups affiliated with Republicans have added more than $10 million.
Obama carried Iowa easily in 2008. Farm interests and alternative fuels read ethanol subsidies and wind energy remain important issues for the states voters. Some of Iowas Democrats also have an aggressive anti-war posture that Obama was able to tap.
Romney, though, is relatively popular with the states social and fiscal conservatives, and he favors federal support for ethanol production.
Recent polls suggest the race is nearly a dead heat. Dave Helling The Kansas City Star
WISCONSIN (10 electoral votes)
A Democratic presidential candidate hasnt lost Wisconsin since 1984, but the Badger State has seen a dramatic political shift.
Voters swept Republicans into power in 2010, sending Ron Johnson to the Senate to replace liberal Sen. Russ Feingold, and putting Scott Walker in the governors office. After Walker curbed union rights in a budget fight, voters sided with Walker again in a recall vote.
Theres been a real shift in government a clear swing in a Republican direction, and you dont even need Paul Ryan on the ticket. But you add him to the ticket and youve got an extra dimension. said Charles Franklin, director of the Marquette Law School Poll.
Romney got a bump in the state when he chose as his running mate the young Ryan, the congressman from Janesville and chairman of the House Budget Committee, pulling within three percentage points after trailing by five.
William Douglas Washington Bureau
MICHIGAN (16 electoral votes)
The state that usually serves as the bellwether for American blue-collar voting will be watched unusually closely this year.
Thought to be a Democratic stronghold, its in play partly because of Romneys family ties and partly because its shown some Republican tendencies.
Michigan elected a conservative Republican governor, Rick Snyder, in 2010. Romney is a Michigan native, from a family still well-regarded in the Detroit area. His father was the states governor from 1963 to 1969.
Romney faces one big hurdle though: The auto industry is coming back, and Obama is taking credit for the resurgence. Though the bailout began under President George W. Bush, Obama kept it going strong and his campaign is offering constant reminders.The RealClearPolitics poll average Friday showed Obama up 2.4 percentage points.
David Lightman Washington Bureau