(CNN) - Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the first White House chief of staff in the Obama administration, says he expects the presidential race to be a "close election" in November.
"I think it's going to come down to a handful of states. ... It's five states, 500 precincts. That's what I believe," Emanuel said in an interview that aired Sunday on CNN's "Fareed Zakaria GPS."
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Emanuel didn't elaborate on the exact states he had in mind but emphasized the election would come down to which candidate could best appeal to major groups across those battlegrounds.
"Who is going to fight for who in that Oval Office?" Emanuel asked, pointing to differences in President Barack Obama's and presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney's positions on the auto and financial industries and the housing crisis.
He said: "To the president, those are people holding onto their entire American dream, as they see it. And they're really different people with different experiences with different views about how to shape the future of this country. And I think that's going to be the fundamental core piece of what this election is about."
In the fight for the White House, a candidate needs to secure the magic number of 270 out of 538 electoral votes to win.
CNN estimates that based on states where Obama has a solid lead, he would have 247 votes, and in the same manner, Romney would have 206 votes from states in which he currently holds the lead.
According to CNN's electoral analysis, the remaining 85 votes are divided among 15 states listed as either tossups or leaning toward a candidate. The seven tossup states include New Hampshire, Virginia, Florida, Ohio, Iowa, Colorado and Nevada - while another four states lean toward Obama and four toward Romney.
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