Live results:The swing states
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Swing states: Swing states are important to the campaigns as the races are too close to call, which means, in most cases, that the state's electoral votes are basically up for grabs.
Here are the states along with the electoral votes at stake, and the margin of victory in 2000. The attached maps provide a view of the landscape and says which party won swing states in 2000 and margin of victory in percentage points.
Colorado (9 votes, 8.36%, Republican), Outlook: The President retains a six-point lead, if the polls are to be believed. But that margin has steadily been shrinking over the past month. Conservative Colorado is home to a huge military presence, which for the most part translates into Republican votes. But the state's economy has hardly recovered from the hard fall it took when the dot-com bubble burst a few years ago. State profile
Florida (27, 0.01%, Republican), Outlook: With two more Electoral College votes than four years ago, reflecting the state's population increase of 1.5 million, Florida will contribute exactly 10 per cent of the votes needed for victory nationwide. Only California, Texas and New York are bigger prizes, but there is little doubt about the results there. (Mr. Kerry, Mr. Bush and Mr. Kerry, respectively.)
The Sunshine State has been an intense battleground for the two candidates, who have visited the state 10 times between them in the past six weeks and spent tens of millions of dollars there since the campaign opened. Polls show both candidates capable of winning, but Mr. Bush could benefit from Florida's currently robust economy, its large military population and his close ties with his younger brother, Jeb, Florida's Governor. State profile
Iowa (7, 0.31%, Democrat), Outlook: Iowa traditionally supports Democrats in presidential elections and Mr. Kerry emerged from its famous caucus system last year with a strong local mandate to take on Mr. Bush. But in a largely rural state where liberals rub shoulders with conservative farmers and an unusually strong fundamentalist Christian community, Iowa remains too close to call.
Although it contributes just seven votes to the Electoral College, Iowa is always viewed as critical. The candidates have crisscrossed the state with high-profile supporters -- former New York mayors Rudolph Giuliani and Edward Koch for Mr. Bush, rock star Jon Bon Jovi for Mr. Kerry -- and record voter turnout is predicted. State profile
Maine (4, 5.11%, Democrat), State profile
Michigan (17, 5.13%, Democrat), State profile
Minnesota (10, 2.4%, Democrat), State profile
Nevada (5, 3.55%, Republican), State profile
New Hampshire (4, 1.27%, Republican), State profile
New Mexico (5, 0.06%, Democrat), Outlook: Famously independent-minded and 42 per cent Hispanic in origin, New Mexico's voters are up for grabs. Campaigning by both candidates has been exhaustive and campaign ads have saturated the airwaves for months.
The number of registered Democrats surpasses their Republican rivals by almost 200,000, which should theoretically spell an easy victory for Mr. Kerry. But the allegiance of an electorate steeped in issues of ethnicity, heritage and geography often crosses party line. State profile
Ohio (20, 3.51%, Republican), Outlook: Ohio is another must-win state -- no Republican has ever secured the presidency without carrying it. Republicans dominate every facet of state government, but two factors have combined to give Mr. Kerry what could be a decisive edge: The number of registered voters has grown by several hundred thousand in the past four years, mostly in areas that voted solidly for Al Gore in 2000; and Ohio has been battered by the loss of more than 200,000 jobs since Mr. Bush became president. With a close race certain, both Republicans and Democrats have mounted record get-out-the-vote operations, deploying tens of thousands of volunteers.6 State profile
Oregon (7, 0.44%, Democrat), State profile
Pennsylvania (21, 4.17%, Democrat), Outlook: Former president Bill Clinton made Pennsylvania his first stop after climbing aboard Mr. Kerry's campaign bus, with state polls showing a cliffhanger this year. Blending traditional blue-collar values with small-town cultural conservatism, Pennsylvania voters' intentions are notoriously difficult to predict. The state's industrial base has usually tilted it toward the Democrats, but in 1988, Mr. Bush's father won comfortably.
Polls show Mr. Kerry to be popular in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, while Mr. Bush draws his chief support in Pennsylvania's central rural areas. Domestic security ranks as the largest defining issue (26 per cent) among voters, which means votes for Mr. Bush. But on the next two key issues -- the economy and the war in Iraq -- Mr. Kerry is strongly preferred. State profile
West Virginia (5, 6.32%, Republican), State profile
Wisconsin (10, 0.22%, Democrat), Outlook: Voter turnout is always high in Wisconsin - 58 per cent in 1996, 69 per cent in 2000 - and one reason is the state's tolerant registration rules for absentee voting. So whatever the outcome, analysts predict a morning-after blizzard of fraud accusations. Amid a campaign that has been particularly vicious, poll predictions have painted a conflicted picture, and both sides claim to be ahead. Milwaukee, easily the state's largest city, is solidly Democratic, as is the state capital, Madison. But equally committed is the big Republican majority in farming communities. As a measure of Wisconsin's importance, Mr. Bush has visited 12 times since the primaries and Mr. Kerry 11. State profile.
We looked at seven sources -- four mainstream media, three independent -- to come up with our list of 14. Our list is simply the most commonly cited states listed as swing or battleground states. (Some lists of swing states are as big as 20.)
Map: The 14 states
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Map: 2000 election
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Note: The sources used to select the states include CNN, Washington Post, New York Times, BBC, swingvoteproject.com, fairvote.org and wikipedia.org