An American comedian once said: "Do you ever get the feeling the only reason we have elections is to find out if the polls were right?" 

This is a look at how the election is shaping up, state-by-state, taking into account the latest polls, historical trends and the candidates' strategies.

As of October 28, national polls and the electoral map show Democratic Barack Obama with a widening lead over Republican John McCain.

Both candidates are making a final campaign push ahead of the November 4 poll.

Playing to win

Barack Obama
Obama needs to hold all the states John Kerry, the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee, won plus win one with lots of electoral votes, like Ohio or a couple of states with more modest electoral votes, such as Virginia and Colorado.

John McCain
McCain needs to hold almost all the states Bush won in 2004.  If he loses a smaller state like Iowa to Obama, McCain can still win if the south and mountain west stay in the Red column.

The big change this week is Virginia.

Obama has fought hard in this state that has not been won by a Democrat in the presidential race since 1964.

A number of polls show Obama is ahead. With that, and his massive financial and personnel investment, Virginia has moved from too-close-to-call to leaning Democratic. 

Two other states that have moved from solid Republican to likely Republican columns are Arizona and Montana.

There are a few polls out which show McCain's lead shrinking. He's still likely to win Arizona but not by the landslide expected from "home turf".

Polls show McCain ahead in Georgia, but only barely.

Obama is spending the last days of the campaign in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Florida and North Carolina. 

McCain will be also be spending his time in many of the same battleground states:  Florida, Ohio, Virginia, North Carolina, Missouri and Indiana - states that George Bush won in 2004, but are in play this year.

McCain is also going to Pennsylvania, the one state he thinks he can win back from Obama, despite being behind in the polls.

The states that are too close to call now are Ohio, Florida, Missouri, North Carolina, Indiana, West Virginia and Nevada.

Colorado

Electoral votes: 9

Leaning Democratic. Colorado is a Mountain West state that has been solidly Republican for years, but this time, the Democrats believe they can put it in the Blue column.

Changing voter demographics, the Democratic National Convention, and a concerted effort by Senator Obama have contributed to putting the state in play.

Florida

Electoral votes: 27

It is a toss-up. Florida is a large, diverse state, with large elderly, Jewish, and Hispanic populations. 

Both candidates are pouring staff and resources into voter rich areas. Florida won the presidency for George Bush in 2000. 

Georgia

Electoral votes: 15

Leaning Republican. Georgia is a conservative southern state but recent polls show McCain just barely ahead, in some cases within the margin of error of the poll.

Indiana

Electoral votes: 11

Another toss-up. It is been a solid red state for 40 years but Obama stands a chance of winning it. 

Indiana borders Obama's home state of Illinois and is being inundated with ads.

Missouri

Electoral votes: 11

Missouri is an important bellwether state.  It has voted for the winning candidate in every election for 100 years, except one. And this time, the polls are too close to call.

Montana

Electoral votes: 3

Leaning Republican. The limited polling that's been done shows the race to be tighter than might be expected.  Montana voted for Clinton once, but is a typically Republican Mountain West State.

The Republican party has started advertising there to try to keep it in McCain's column but Obama smells victory in Montana.  He's started running ads there - $2 million worth.

The fact that both parties think Montana is up for grabs takes it out of the solid Republican category.

Nevada

Electoral votes: 5

Nevada is a mountain west state and likes to vote for the winners. It has correctly predicted the winner of the White House since 1980. 

But it is also a toss-up. It leans Republican, but right now, Vegas gambling houses are giving Obama an enormous advantage in the race. 

One gambling website is giving McCain 4 to 1 odds while Obama is 1-7. 

New Hampshire

Electoral votes: 4

Leaning Democratic. It's little, but in an election where every Electoral vote counts, New Hampshire matters.

John McCain has been a popular figure in New Hampshire for years, but the latest polls show Obama is leading.  McCain has continued to campaign in New Hampshire in recent days, still believing he can bring back his support. 

New Mexico

Electoral votes: 5

Leaning Democratic.  New Mexico is a Mountain-West swing state with a large Hispanic population and popular Democratic Governor Bill Richardson.

But it's still Conservative, and both candidates think they can win.

North Carolina

Electoral votes: 15

New polls show the race is still very close. Obama is pouring in resources to try to pull out a win in this southern Republican state. 

Around 250,000 new Democrats have registered to vote since the beginning of the year, compared to 50,000 new Republicans.

A poll taken over the summer found that native North Carolinians support McCain by eight points, while migrants to the state support Obama by about five points. 

North Carolina has not voted for a Democrat since 1976.

North Dakota

Electoral votes: 3

Some polling has indicated the race is tight, but North Dakota is a historically Republican state.

It has voted the same as its sister state, South Dakota for 80 years.  South Dakota continues to be a Solid Republican state.

Ohio

Electoral votes: 20

Ohio is big, economically depressed, and a true indicator of the national mood. 

No Republican has won the White House without Ohio. Obama is up in some polls, but both candidates are fighting hard.

Pennsylvania

Electoral votes: 21

Leaning Democratic. Pennsylvania is older and whiter than most states and has a large manufacturing base, hit hard by the economic turbulence. 

McCain continues to campaign in Pennsylvania, even though polls show Obama holds a slight lead. 

Pennsylvania has voted for the Democratic candidate since 1992.

Virginia

Electoral votes: 13

Virginia is Obama's best chance to break the Republican hold on the south.

The state has voted for the Republican ticket since 1968, but changing demographics, a popular Democratic governor, and a slew of ads and on-the-ground effort by the Obama campaign have put it in play. 

Most new polls show Obama's lead outside the margin of error.  That combined with the huge effort by the Obama campaign move this state very tentatively, from toss-up to leaning Democratic.

West Virginia

Electoral votes: 5

West Virginia is a largely rural, white state.

Obama is inundating the state with advertising and Biden made a stop there late last week. The state's two popular long-serving Democratic senators and governor are out on the stump for Obama.

Polls are inconsistent. Some show McCain ahead, others are within the margin of error.  Because it's so rural, West Virginia is a hard state to poll accurately. 

Source: Al Jazeera