The designations are based on an Associated Press analysis and are not intended to predict the outcome of Tuesday's election. Rather, they are meant to provide a snapshot of a race that has been stubbornly close in the small number of most competitive states all year.
The analysis is based on public polls and internal campaign surveys as well as spending on television advertising, candidate visits, get-out-the-vote organizations and interviews with more than a dozen Republican and Democratic strategists in Washington, and in the most contested states.
A look at where the race stands state by state. The numbers in parenthesis reflect electoral votes.
SOLIDLY DEMOCRATIC (186):
California, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.
LEANING DEMOCRATIC (85):
Iowa (6) - Romney sees opportunity in a key state for Obama in 2008. He's visited a half-dozen times in about two weeks and shaved Obama's early vote advantage. But internal Obama campaign polls and public surveys have shown Obama with a steady edge. The state is within reach for Romney, but he needs heavy election day turnout to trump Obama's early vote edge. Obama planned to end his campaign in Iowa, which Republicans said showed instability. Obama aides said it was a nod to the state that gave him his first primary win in 2008.
Michigan (16) - Despite lingering economic pain in the auto capital, Michigan has large minority and union voting blocs that favor Obama. Romney, a native son whose father was governor, sensed opportunity earlier in the campaign but his opposition to auto industry bailout is seen as prohibitive.
Minnesota (10) - Low unemployment and a long streak of Democratic presidential nominees carrying Minnesota give Obama confidence. But Romney began advertising in the state last week, followed quickly by Obama. Some see the ads as a way to reach competitive western Wisconsin, although Romney aides discussing sending Romney and running mate Paul Ryan in campaign's final week in light of tightening polls.
Nevada (6) - Nevada is the focal point of the nation's household economic woes: No. 1 in unemployment, foreclosures and bankruptcies. The race has been tight, but has moved Obama's way in recent weeks, backed by huge labor and Hispanic voting blocs. Romney sent Ryan to the state on the campaign's final swing, while Romney concentrated on Ohio, Florida, Virginia and other states.
New Mexico (5) - Influx of Hispanic and younger voters are Obama advantages in this state pivotal in 2000 and 2004.
Pennsylvania (20) - Pennsylvania has been Democratic territory in recent presidential races. Romney is campaigning in the state and the GOP is advertising in it. But registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by nearly 1 million.
UP FOR GRABS (83):
Colorado (9) - Romney is running even with Obama and has nosed ahead in some public and private polls. The state's conservative profile has changed, but unemployment remains high, above the national average. Young professionals and Hispanic voters were central to Obama in 2008 and remain his strength. But the fight for suburban women in the Denver area is seen as critical. Romney is using an argument that Obama has failed women economically while Obama has attacked Romney for months for positions on birth control and abortion.
Florida (29) - Florida has moved in Romney's way steadily since the GOP's convention this summer, and some polls show Romney with a slight edge. Obama won in 2008, but the housing crisis and high unemployment are dogging him. Romney has made headway with Jewish voters and has an edge with Cuban-Americans, while Obama is the favorite among the state's heavy Puerto Rican community.
New Hampshire (4) - Romney has a vacation home in New Hampshire, which is next to Massachusetts, where Romney was governor. He won the 2012 primary big, but Obama peeled off this Bush state in 2008 and has visited often. Polls show the race close, and both candidates were visiting on the campaign's final swing.
Ohio (18) - Obama has the organizing advantage, and unemployment has dropped steadily and held below the national rate this year. Obama reminded during debates that he's due some of the credit for keeping Ohio auto plants open and expanding by supporting industry bailout. Romney is not ceding an inch. Some polls show race tightening, but most public and internal polls show Obama with the edge.
Virginia (13) - Long a GOP bastion, Obama carried Virginia in 2008 by turning out young and minority voters. This helps him in suburban northern Virginia but he struggles in the rural and conservative South and West. Romney is using Obama's proposed cuts in military spending against this strong, defense contracting state. Virginia polls show a very close race.
Wisconsin (10) - Having led early on, Obama's edge has been cut in public polling although Democrats express confidence they will hold the state their party has carried in presidential elections since 1988. Having Ryan, a Wisconsin congressman, on the ticket helps, Republicans say, as does GOP intensity that helped Gov. Scott Walker beat a recall election in June. Obama and Romney are advertising heavily and visiting on the campaign's final weekend.
LEANING REPUBLICAN (47):
North Carolina (15) - Polls have tightened in North Carolina, where Obama has kept his ads on the air despite gains by Republicans and voters' resounding rejection of a referendum to allow same-sex marriage. Obama continues to advertise, albeit at levels less than Romney and GOP-leaning groups, while Romney has dispatched some North Carolina staff to other states and Obama was not campaigning there on the final weekend.
Arizona (11) - 2008 GOP nominee John McCain's single-digit victory in his home state, and Hispanic and young voter boom, give Obama hope that Arizona is trending as other states in the Southwest. But it's seen little action from Democrats so far.
Indiana (11) - Obama broke a 44-year GOP trend by winning Indiana in 2008, albeit by a single percentage point. Unemployment is high and the tea party is a new factor, both working against Obama. He's not actively campaigning in the state.
Missouri (10) - Obama's campaign discussed the option of campaigning in reliably Republican Missouri after GOP Senate candidate Todd Akin's comments on abortion and rape. Though the issue hurt Akin's chances, Obama's team never moved in and the state favors Romney.
SOLIDLY REPUBLICAN (159): Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)