Washington (CNN) - With just over five months to go until the November election, a new CNN Electoral Map indicates a tight battle between President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney for the 270 electoral votes needed to win the White House.
According to the CNN map unveiled Monday, the president leads Romney in 19 states and the District of Columbia, which if he carried those in the general election would give him 247 electoral votes. Romney, the unofficial GOP presidential nominee pending the party's convention, leads in 24 states, which would give him 206 electoral votes.
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The map currently indicates that seven states are true toss-ups. Those states are Colorado (9 electoral votes), Florida (29), Iowa (6), Nevada (6), New Hampshire (4), Ohio (18) and Virginia (13). Eighty-five electoral votes are up for grabs in those seven states.
Four states currently lean towards Obama: Michigan (16), New Mexico (5), Pennsylvania (20) and Wisconsin (10). Four states currently lean towards Romney: Arizona (11), Indiana (11), Missouri (10), and North Carolina (15).
"Elections generally break one way late, meaning if you head into the final weeks with six toss-ups, four or five - and sometimes all - break with the winner. And so that could well happen this time. But if you look at the map today, this looks a lot more like Bush vs. Gore than it does Obama vs. McCain," says CNN Chief National Correspondent John King, anchor of "John King, USA."
"It's no surprise that Florida and Ohio are toss-ups and potential 'deciders' - they traditionally play that role in presidential politics. What is fascinating is the number of plausible scenarios under which one or two of the 'smaller' battlegrounds could prove decisive," King added. "Iowa and New Hampshire, for example - what a delicious storyline if it all ends in the states where it began. Colorado and Virginia are relative newcomers to the 'swing state' role, and now critical to what amounts to a multi-dimensional chess game."
Overall, 15 states right now are either toss-ups or lean towards either the president or Romney.
"The 2012 presidential election likely will be decided by these 15 key states, worth a total of 183 electoral votes," CNN Political Research Director Robert Yoon says. "Determining what qualifies as a battleground state is not an exact science, but it's a rough mix of several criteria, including polling, past election results, the state's political, demographic, and economic trends; whether the campaigns and parties will devote resources to the state, such as ad spending, candidate visits, field offices, and staff, and the presence of other high-profile races on the ballot. CNN's Electoral Map will take into account all these factors, as well as its own reporting and analysis."
There are factors that aren't as clear as what the map shows, King said.
"President Obama starts with a mathematical edge and the psychological advantage of knowing he won each of the tossups last time. A different year, yes, but in most places he has veteran teams who know the states and so also know where there are weaknesses and erosion when compared to 2008. Governor Romney has less room for error - he has to win Ohio and most likely needs to win Florida, too."
What else to look for? Efforts by both campaigns to change the map, King said.
"Can, for example, Team Romney wrestle Wisconsin and/or Pennsylvania out of the 'Lean Obama' and into competitive toss-up territory? Doing so would not only give them more options on a path to 270, but also force the Democrats to adjust travel and ad strategies some.
"And ditto for Arizona when it comes to Team Obama - if they can accelerate the progress they are making there, it could give them a potential backup state to offset a loss or losses elsewhere," King continued. "An Arizona-New Mexico-Colorado-Nevada bundle in the West, for example, would allow President Obama to survive struggles in Florida and/or Ohio. More of the chess match."
Both the Obama and Romney campaigns are spending big bucks to put up TV commercials in many of these states, with independent groups also pouring in money to run ads. Both the president and Romney have made campaign stops in many of these states, and both camps are increasing their troops there, as well.
- CNN Political Editor Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report.