PRESIDENT Barack Obama is poised to eke out a victory in the race for the 270 electoral votes needed to win re-election, having beaten back Republican Mitt Romney's attempts to convert momentum from the debates into support in Ohio.
But while the Democratic incumbent has the upper hand in the electoral vote hunt, Romney has pulled even in some pivotal states including Florida and Virginia.
The Republican challenger also appears to have the advantage in North Carolina, the most conservative of the hotly contested nine states that will determine the winner.
But Romney continues to have fewer state-by-state paths than Obama to reach the 270 tally.
Without Ohio's 18 electoral votes, Romney would need last-minute victories in nearly all the remaining up-for-grabs states and manage to pick off key states now leaning Obama's way, such as Iowa or Wisconsin.
"I'm counting on Iowa! Iowa may be the place that decides who the next president is!" Romney said on one of two visits to the state.
While in Ohio last week, a hoarse Obama reminded a Cleveland audience: "I need you, Ohio. America needs you, Ohio."