After the three presidential debates, Mitt Romney has closed the gap with Barack Obama and has his best chance yet to win. But barring a hidden anti-Obama sentiment that neither the White House nor many public pollsters are picking up, the President retains a crucial advantage he's enjoyed all along--more and easier routes to the 270 electoral votes required to win.
Here's where the two sides now stand: Obama is counting on 237 electoral votes, and Romney has 191, with 110 up for grabs.
That means Romney needs 79 electoral votes from the remaining nine toss-up states
Judging from his current standing, his most likely paths involve winning the three Southern battlegrounds and the ultimate prize, Ohio. That would leave Romney at 266 and needing to win only one of the five remaining states in play, with Colorado the most likely
If Romney can sweep the South but can't overcome his long-standing deficit in Ohio, his task becomes much harder. The most likely combo without the Buckeye State: Colorado, Paul Ryan's home state of Wisconsin and either Iowa or New Hampshire
The major complications for the Republican: Obama won all nine of these states in 2008, and the incumbent is fiercely contesting all of them this time around
Romney campaign staffer Charlie Pearce moves a corn-hole game from the tarmac in Daytona Beach, Fla. The homestretch of the campaign will require a near continuous loop among the swing states to try to keep the momentum going right to Election Day.
On the Ballot in ...
Americans won't just choose the next President and Congress on Nov. 6. Ballot measures nationwide are asking voters to weigh in on a range of controversial topics, including marijuana regulations, abortion, gay marriage and even hunting rights. Here's a look at three of the most hotly disputed issues at the state level:
The death penalty may be repealed and replaced with life in prison without parole--saving $130 million a year, supporters argue
A constitutional amendment to restrict abortion would ban taxpayer-funded abortions and clear the way for new parental-consent requirements
The state's recent Dream Act, which allows in-state college tuition for certain qualifying illegal immigrants, could be overturned
WORD OF THE WEEK
micropolitan adj. small but regionally important population center of 10,000 to 50,000 residents
See: The U.S. Census Bureau found that 1 in 10 people lives in one of the country's 576 micropolitan areas, such as Hilton Head, S.C., and Wooster, Ohio
The current average price per acre of high-quality cropland in Iowa--a record--due to high corn and soybean prices