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Predict a winner: Battleground states

The 2012 presidential election is likely to be decided by voters in a small number of swing states. The Times has identified these states in play — shown below in gray — based on polling data and other factors, and we’ll update the list from time to time as polls shift. Click a state until it turns to your choice: Democratic, Republican or back to contested. See which combinations lead a candidate to the 270 electoral votes needed to claim the White House.

Obama
270 electors to win
Romney
Reader predictions
Solid Dem.
Lean Dem.
Solid GOP
Lean GOP
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Alabama
Electors: 9
When Democrats successfully pushed civil rights legislation in the mid-1960s, Alabama went Republican, and has since rejected the GOP only twice in 12 contests -- in 1968, when it went for native son and segregationist George Wallace, who ran as an independent; and in 1976, when Democrat Jimmy Carter from neighboring Georgia won.
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Alaska
Electors: 3
Democrats' objection to drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge has typically put them at odds with Alaskans in presidential elections; 2008 was the first time in decades that Democrats made a sincere effort to win the state. Obama invested resources there and appeared to have a chance, until John McCain chose Sarah Palin as his running mate. McCain carried the state 59% to 38%.
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Arizona
Electors: 11
Obama conceded Arizona in 2008 to John McCain, who had represented the state in Congress for a quarter-century. Still, McCain won just 54% to 45%. That outcome, coupled with the state's growing number of Latino voters, gives Democrats reason to think Arizona could be in play in 2012.
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Arkansas
Electors: 6
Democrats have carried Arkansas three times since the civil rights era. Jimmy Carter of Georgia was first, in 1976, and native son Bill Clinton accounted for the second and third times, winning in 1992 and 1996. Obama has no real shot at following in their footsteps here.
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California
Electors: 55
Since 1992, the Golden State has been a Democratic stronghold, and the party's margins of victory have steadily grown. Obama won 61% of the vote in 2008, compared with John Kerry's 54% in 2004. Demographics suggest that trend is likely to continue.
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Colorado
Electors: 9
Bill Clinton proved that a Democrat could carry Colorado when he won in 1992, but Obama's win in 2008 marked only the second time in 11 presidential elections that Colorado voters rejected the Republican nominee. Current polls show it among the closest of the battleground states, with Obama holding a slender margin and Latino turnout key to the outcome.
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Connecticut
Electors: 7
Like most other states in the Northeast, Connecticut has turned reliably Democratic in the last two decades. Obama won here by more than 20 percentage points in 2008 and is considered the heavy favorite again.
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Delaware
Electors: 3
Joe Biden's home state has been a blue state since 1992, and was an easy win for the Democratic ticket in 2008.
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District of Columbia
Electors: 3
Though not a state, there is no more reliable a stronghold for Democrats than the nation's capital, where the party has collected three electoral votes in every presidential election since its voters were first allowed to participate in 1964.
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Florida
Electors: 29
Florida is more politically diverse than other Southern states, owing to its explosive population growth over the last 50 years. Now up to 29 electoral votes -- the third-most, tied with New York -- it will endure an unprecedented advertising blitz. Of the large battlegrounds, the state is probably Romney's best shot. Recent polls have shown the race here to be very tight.
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Georgia
Electors: 16
Another Southern state with changing demographics, Georgia could be competitive in future elections, with John McCain beating Obama by only 5 percentage points in 2008, 52% to 47%. A poll in February showed Romney leading Obama 49% to 42%. The state is worth keeping tabs on, but still a safe call for Republicans.
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Hawaii
Electors: 4
Except for two years when Republican candidates won handily nationwide, Hawaii has always awarded its four electoral votes to the Democrat. In 2008, Obama, who spent much of his childhood in the state, carried Hawaii 72% to 27%.
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Idaho
Electors: 4
This Republican stronghold has voted for a Democrat just once since 1952. Bill Clinton finished third here by less than 1 percentage point, behind George H.W. Bush and Ross Perot, in 1992. John McCain carried the state in 2008, 62% to 36%.
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Illinois
Electors: 20
Obama's campaign headquarters in Chicago will know he's in real trouble if he loses his home base. The state lost one electoral vote after the census, but it's safe for Obama.
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Indiana
Electors: 11
Obama claimed a narrow win here in 2008, but Indiana is at the top of the list of Rust Belt states more likely to vote for Romney in November. The historical trend is strong, with Indiana having previously gone for the GOP in 10 presidential elections dating to 1964. A poll in April showed Romney ahead 49% to 40%. (Indiana was initially shown as contested.)
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Iowa
Electors: 6
Once a reliably Republican state, Iowa has voted for the Democratic nominee in five of the last six presidential elections. Obama beat John McCain by 10 points in 2008, but his current lead in polls is less than half that.
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Kansas
Electors: 6
Another Republican stronghold, Kansas has voted for a Democrat just once since 1936 -- Lyndon Johnson's 1964 landslide victory over Barry Goldwater. Even then, the margin was just 9%, one of the closest in the election. John McCain carried the state in 2008, 57% to 42%.
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Kentucky
Electors: 8
When it comes to presidents, Kentucky is staunchly Republican, opting against the GOP only when Southerners won the Democratic nomination -- Jimmy Carter in 1976 and Bill Clinton in 1992 and 1996. Obama won only 41% of the vote here four years ago, and it's not likely to be more competitive in November.
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Louisiana
Electors: 8
In 2008, Obama won less than 20% of the white vote in only three states -- Louisiana (14%), Mississippi (11) and Alabama (10). Even John Kerry, a liberal senator from Massachusetts, was able to land 24% in 2004. Obama may make a campaign stop in New Orleans, the state's Democratic base, but that will be just to show the flag.
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Maine
Electors: 4
One of only two states that could divide up its electoral votes (Nebraska is the other). Two of its four votes are based on the state result; and each of the state's two congressional districts gets a vote. Both at the moment appear to be leaning Democratic.
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Maryland
Electors: 10
Now one of the bluest states in the country, with the urban centers of Baltimore and the Washington suburbs ensuring a sizable vote for Obama. He won 62% of the vote here in 2008.
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Massachusetts
Electors: 11
Despite the state's reputation as a Democratic stronghold, it actually voted for Reagan in 1980 and 1984. But barring a major landslide, Romney will likely suffer the same fate Al Gore did in Tennessee in 2000 and fail to carry his home state (well, one of his home states).
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Michigan
Electors: 16
The state where he was born will be an easy win for Romney, right? No way. Obama scored big with his successful rescue of General Motors and Chrysler, and the state's latest unemployment report showed one of the biggest drops in the nation. Polls have consistently shown Obama holding an edge. (Michigan was initially shown as contested.)
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Minnesota
Electors: 10
Republicans tried to put the state in play in 2008, putting their convention there. But the state has gone for the Democrat in every election since 1976.
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Mississippi
Electors: 6
Another of three Deep South states -- along with Louisiana and Alabama -- where white voters overwhelmingly rejected Obama in 2008, with 90% of them voting for John McCain. Mississippi last went for a Democrat when Jimmy Carter of Georgia won in 1976. An easy six electoral votes for Romney.
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Missouri
Electors: 10
Long an electoral bellwether, voting with the winning candidate in every election since 1960 until it narrowly sided with John McCain in 2008. At this point, considered safe territory for Romney.
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Montana
Electors: 3
Obama targeted Montana in 2008. He made a July 4 visit and put together an impressive ground organization in the hopes of swiping the state, which had voted 59% to 39% in favor of George W. Bush in 2004. The effort wasn't enough, but it did cut into the Republicans' advantage -- McCain carried Montana just 50% to 47%.
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Nebraska
Electors: 5
One of two states, with Maine, that won't necessarily give all of its electoral votes to the statewide winner. That candidate gets two of Nebraska's five electoral votes; the other three are determined by the winner each of the state's three congressional districts. McCain carried Nebraska 57% to 42% in 2008, but Obama walked away with one electoral vote after a narrow win in the 2nd District, which includes Omaha.
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Nevada
Electors: 6
Here's a true swing state: In the last six presidential elections, the score is Republicans 3, Democrats 3. Huge population growth has transformed Nevada from a state Republicans could count on to a dogfight. The lingering housing crisis helps Romney, but the demographic trend favors Obama, who won here in 2008.
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New Hampshire
Electors: 4
Romney is from next-door Massachusetts, and his fiscal conservatism, if not his stands on social issues, will appeal to independent New Hampshire voters. But the Democratic nominee has carried New Hampshire in five of the last eight elections. Current polls show the contest here to be neck-and-neck.
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New Jersey
Electors: 14
A state that is almost all suburbs, both of Philadelphia and New York. It has been reliably Democratic since it sided with Bill Clinton in 1992, after having favored the Republican in the previous six presidential votes.
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New Mexico
Electors: 5
Recent polls show Obama with double-digit leads, including a couple conducted by firms whose results typically lean toward the GOP. This continues a trend spurred by an increase in Latino voters. New Mexico has voted Democratic in four of the last five presidential elections. President George W. Bush was the lone Republican exception when he won a second term in 2004. Obama enjoyed an easy win here in 2008. (Note: Prior to July 11, this state was shown as being in play.)
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New York
Electors: 29
The state continues to lose electoral clout, having dropped two electoral votes since 2008 through the redistricting process. But there's little doubt the Empire State will stay blue, as it has been since 1988.
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North Carolina
Electors: 15
A great state to watch, as the GOP had carried North Carolina in nine of 10 elections before Obama's narrow 2008 win, 49.7%-49.4%. The state's changing demographics give the president hope for November, and the fact that the race here has remained close, in a state that Obama just barely won in 2008, is a good sign for him. Expected to be tight all the way.
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North Dakota
Electors: 3
One of the reddest states in the country, North Dakota doesn't vote for Democrats unless it's a landslide year. John McCain easily carried the state in 2008, 53% to 45%.
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Ohio
Electors: 18
Some rank Ohio as the most important swing state in the election; others say Florida. Either way, the Buckeye State is big, and the last candidate to lose Ohio and still win the election was John F. Kennedy in 1960. The auto industry rebound will help Obama, but the economy is far from great. Obama's intensive campaigning here has given him a persistent lead which Democratic strategists are counting on to block Romney's path to an electoral majority.
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Oklahoma
Electors: 7
If you want to know who's too conservative for Oklahoma, the answer is Barry Goldwater, who lost to President Johnson in 1964 and is the only Republican nominee to not carry Oklahoma since Thomas Dewey was bested by Harry Truman in 1948. That's 60 years and one Democratic win. Expect a GOP win by a whopping margin.
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Oregon
Electors: 7
John Kerry carried Oregon 51% to 47% in 2004, and Obama won four years later, 57% to 40%. But the state has not always been a shoo-in for Democrats. Frustration with Clinton administration logging policies left Al Gore with a razor-thin 47% to 46.5% victory here in 2000. And earlier in the 2008 campaign -- before the financial crash -- some thought Oregon could be in play.
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Pennsylvania
Electors: 20
A Quinnipiac poll from March had Romney (42%) within 3 points of Obama (45%) in Pennsylvania, but a poll released May 3 showed Obama had more than doubled his lead, to 47 to 39. While it is a swing state, Pennsylvania has voted Democratic in the last five presidential elections, so some analysts see the Keystone State as more crucial for Obama.
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Rhode Island
Electors: 4
Obama won 63% of the vote here, his third-biggest share after Hawaii and Vermont. There's little reason to suspect it will turn red this time around, even with Romney being from neighboring Massachusetts.
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South Carolina
Electors: 9
The home state of Strom Thurmond, one of six states carried by arch-conservative Barry Goldwater in 1964, and a state that did not remove the Confederate flag from the top of its State House until 2000. Jimmy Carter is the only Democrat to carry South Carolina in six-plus decades, and Obama will not break the streak.
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South Dakota
Electors: 3
Bill Clinton came within 3% of winning here in 1996, but that was unusual for a state that has favored a Democrat for president just four times since statehood in 1889. In 2000, Al Gore lost the state to George W. Bush 38% to 60%. The margin has tightened since: John McCain carried South Dakota in 2008, 53% to 45%.
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Tennessee
Electors: 11
Typically an automatic win for the Republicans since the 1960s, Tennessee did not even go for Democrat Al Gore, a native son and sitting vice president, in 2000. If it had, Gore would have been president regardless of what happened in Florida. Democrat Bill Clinton from neighboring Arkansas carried Tennessee in 1992 and '96, but Obama lost by 15 points in 2008. A safe call for Romney.
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Texas
Electors: 38
Romney is not exactly a Texas kind of candidate. They like their New Englanders to be named Bush and have ties to the Longhorn State. But Romney is a Republican and Texas has been reliably red since going for Ronald Reagan in 1980. Polls have consistently shown Romney ahead of Obama by 8 to 10 points. Down the line, the growing number of Latino voters could put Texas up for grabs, but not this year.
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Utah
Electors: 6
Bill Clinton placed third here in 1992, with 25% to Ross Perot's 27%. Utah has been the most Republican state in six of the last nine presidential elections. In the best Democratic showing since 1968, Obama won 34% of the vote here in 2008.
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Vermont
Electors: 3
Vermont was a Republican stronghold for generations, choosing the GOP nominee in every election but one from 1856 through 1988. But it's gone for the Democrat ever since, and by significant margins each time.
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Virginia
Electors: 13
Powered by the Washington, D.C., metro area, northern Virginia has attracted an influx of Latino and Asian residents, who helped Obama win in 2008. As in Ohio, Obama has campaigned intensively here and has built a lead in recent polls. If that margin holds, an electoral majority would be very difficult for Romney. Before Obama won in 2008, the GOP had carried Virginia in nine of 10 previous elections.
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Washington
Electors: 12
Democrats have been carrying this state by increasing margins: Al Gore won 50% to 45% in 2000, John Kerry won 53% to 46% in 2004, and Obama won four years ago, 58% to 40%.
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West Virginia
Electors: 5
A May 1 poll showed Romney with a commanding lead over Obama, 54% to 37%. Democrats have contended here, with Bill Clinton winning in 1992 and '96 and Michael Dukakis carrying the state in 1988. In the last three elections, it's been the Republican who prevailed, and that is the expectation in November.
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Wisconsin
Electors: 10
Wisconsin has become reliably Democratic in presidential elections, having gone for the party's candidate in all six contests since 1988. (Yes, even Michael Dukakis won here.) Obama has remained popular in Wisconsin, but having a native son, Rep. Paul Ryan, on the GOP ticket, has made the state competitive this year.
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Wyoming
Electors: 3
Wyoming, the state with the smallest population, gave John McCain his widest margin of victory in 2008. McCain carried the state 65% to 33%.
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