With seven weeks before Americans go to the polls across the country, the swing states that will decide the presidential election have been whittled to eight.
Mitt Romney has a bigger uphill climb simply because he needs to win more of those states than President Obama. His solid states total 206 electoral votes vs. 237 in solid Obama states. A bare majority is 270 electoral votes.
Yet presidential candidates have faced challenges at least as big before and prevailed.
The swing states total 95 electoral votes: Colorado (9), Florida (29), Iowa (6), Nevada (6), New Hampshire (4), Ohio (18), Virginia (13) and Wisconsin (10). All of those states voted for Obama in 2008, but since then six have elected GOP governors.
The polls reveal a mixed bag. Romney generally trails in key states such as Florida, Ohio and Virginia, though he does lead in one Sunshine State survey. The latest Rasmussen swing-state tracking poll, which also includes Michigan, North Carolina and Pennsylvania, shows Romney with a small edge over Obama, 47%-46%. Political fortunes can swing considerably in the last two months of a presidential campaign.
Back in 1980, Ronald Reagan led then-President Jimmy Carter for much of the summer, but they were tied at 39% in a September Gallup poll. Carter then moved ahead until an 11th-hour swing to Reagan, who won handily, 50%-41%.
While many factors played into Reagan's win, a key one was the debate in late October in which his easy-going personality bested the often stiff Carter.
Romney and Obama debate on Oct. 3, 12 and 16.
One thing Romney will have to achieve in the debates is convincing viewers in the swing states that he is not a hard-nosed corporate CEO.
Quinnipiac polls in Ohio and Florida asked if Romney had the right business experience to get the economy creating jobs or if he was too focused on profits. In Ohio, 50% said too focused on profits, 41% said right experience. In Florida, it was 48%-42%.
To be fair, the question incorporates a false distinction between jobs and profits. In the long term, it is profitable businesses that create jobs.
When Rasmussen last week asked in a straightforward manner who likely voters nationwide trust more on the economy, 50% favored Romney vs. 43% for Obama. Romney will need to press that core advantage.
The GOP hopeful also needs to do more to shore up his likability ratings, which still lag Obama's. He has made strides, with 50% of respondents in the latest IBD/TIPP poll saying they like him vs. 43% who dislike him. In August, the reading was 37%-50%.
"Romney's personal side was shown in the Republican convention and that seems to have worked," said Raghavan Mayur, president of TechnoMetrica Market Intelligence, which conducted the poll.