TODAY   |  November 06, 2012

In a close race, all eyes are on battleground states

With polls showing President Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney neck and neck, attention is focused on four key battleground states. NBC’s John Yang, Kerry Sanders, Kristen Dahlgren, and Tom Costello report on the state of the race in Ohio, Florida, Colorado, and Virginia.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> but we begin this half hour with the all-important battleground states in the presidential race. to get a sense of how important and influential they are and how much more focused these states have gotten, we found an animation from npr and that tells the story. this is what the electoral map looks like, how it shock out in 2008 , but here's how it looks if you take the states with the states with the most electoral votes larger.

>> that's not the country i grew up knowing.

>> and here's what it's really telling. if you resize the states depending on how much money the campaigns spent on this campaign. it looks something like this. i hope ohio , florida , virginia , colorado jumping more off the page. let's talk more about that starting with nbc 's john yang in cincinnati, ohio . john, good morning to you.

>> reporter: good morning, matt. voting under way here in this battleground state , in this battleground county in the battleground state . ohio has picked the winner in every election since 1964 . no republican has won the white house without it. already about 1.8 million votes have been cast in early balloting. those ballots will be the first to be counted tonight. it should give us a good idea of how the turnout effort on both sides has been going. matt?

>> all right. john yang , i'll take it, and we want to head now to florida and nbc 's kerry sanders in orlando along the all-important i-4 corridor, an area expected to determine who wins the state . kerry, good morning to you.

>> reporter: good morning, savannah. polls open here at 7:00 a.m . don't forget there are two time zones in florida . supervisors of election in the state say anyone in line at 7:00 p.m . and who has not yet voted will still be allowed to cast their vote. so far because of early voting there's been a tremendous turnout already in the state , 4.5 million people have voted in the state . here's the breakdown. 1.9 million registered democrats. 1.7 million registered republicans, but remember, of course, that doesn't mean they necessarily voted the party ticket. one issue that resonates, especially in south florida is the question of israel. jewish voters traditionally are registered as democrats, but rabbis have been asking questions it their congregations about the president's commitment to israel. florida has the second largest jewish population outside of new york. there are 12 million registered voters in florida . both campaigns have spent a record $192 million to try to win their votes. the prize here, 29 electoral votes . savannah?

>> kerry sanders , thank you.

>> all right. let's go to colorado now. nine electoral votes up for grabs in that state and nbc 's kristen dahlgren is in centennial this morning. good morning to you.

>> reporter: good morning, matt. the candidates have been here dozens of times over the past few months. president obama won colorado by 9% back in 2008 , but this could be a very different story. all of the polls within the margin of error. now, most coloradoans have already voted in early voting . we can't tell you the count, but we can tell you the breakdown, that is 37% of voters so far have been republican, about 35% have been democrats, and that leaves some 28% with no party affiliation, so this could come down to those voters and who they choose, and also who the different sides can get out in their core base today. polls open here at 7:00 a.m . mountain time , and they have made contingency plans to keep the election offices staffed late into the night if the count goes late tonight. matt?

>> all right. kristen dahlgren in colorado , thank you.

>> and last but not least the battleground state of virginia . let's go to nbc 's tom costello. good morning to you.

>> reporter: good morning. what was heartening was to see people lined up here at 3:30 in the morning when it was dark, and they were here at 6:00 in the morning when the polls finally opened. we had 600 people or so in line. we can tell you virginia and its 13 electoral votes are critical, and this county is going to be a key county to watch, henrico as well as the northern virginia counties in fairfax, louden and also prince william . i also want to show you how important the state is because yesterday we had last-minute visits again by vice president biden and also by governor romney. in total the candidates have made more than 90 trips here to virginia . this state used to be reliably republican, and then it voted for obama in '08. it has been purple ever since, voting for a republican governor, and right now the polls have a single point spread between president obama and governor romney with obama ahead. how will the state turn out? it may be a nail-biter. guys, back to you.

>> a lot of eyes on virginia tonight. tom costello, thank