Obama has formidable lead in presidential race

With two weeks left until the US presidential election, Barack Obama has established a formidable lead in the race for the White House.

Democrat Mr Obama, who would be the first African American US president, leads his Republican rival John McCain, who would bring the first female vice president to the White House, by more than five points in national polls with just 14 days to go until America votes.

Mr Obama’s lead in polls has reduced over the last week – down from more than eight points seven days ago – but the winner will be the first candidate to secure 270 electoral college votes after the polls close on November 4.

If the election was held today, and if the polls proved to be correct, the electoral college system means Mr Obama would have 259 votes from “solid” Democratic states, compared with Mr McCain’s 137.

A total of 20 states, as well as DC, are considered to be firmly in the hands of the Democrats, while 17 states are considered Republican.

But the states were not created equal and the larger states, such as California, Texas and New York, have many more electoral college votes than the smaller, less densely populated, states such as North Dakota and Wyoming.

There are also eight so-called “toss-up” states, with three states leaning towards Mr Obama and a further two leaning towards Mr McCain.

The 47-year-old Illinois senator would also hope to win 27 votes from states which were leaning towards the Democrat, taking him over the 270 votes needed to become the 44th president of the United States.

If all the states which are leaning towards his rival voted for Mr McCain, the Republican would only have 234 votes – and would still need to win some of the “toss-up” states in order to win the presidency.

These states are Florida, Indiana, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio and West Virginia and control a total of 97 electoral college votes.

Mr Obama leads by more than two points in Florida, Missouri, Ohio, and North Carolina, and by more than four points in Nevada.

And Mr McCain leads by more than two points in West Virginia, by more than three points in Indiana and by more than four points in North Dakota.

But there have been some key changes in the last few days, the most significant being in Florida.

The Sunshine State, with its crucial 27 votes, moved from leaning Obama to a toss-up last week.

Perhaps in response to this, Mr Obama spent yesterday and today in the state, talking about solutions for the economic crisis which has boosted his popularity in the race.

But Mr McCain confused some US political pundits today by holding a series of events in Pennsylvania – a Democratic stronghold where he is 11 points behind Mr Obama.

Some pundits believe the 72-year-old Arizona senator’s time would have been better spent elsewhere in toss-up states as he tries to come back from a long way behind – not for the first time in his career.

Polling figures and details of the state of the race were taken from the independent website RealClearPolitics.com, which takes an average of polls.

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