Five swing states to watch in the US Election

As election day looms, these states will be key to getting to the magical 270 electoral college votes

As with most US presidential elections, the keys to the White House will be won by the candidate who wins pivotal "swing states". 

Also known as 'purple states,' these are states where, generally, there is a closer margin between the two parties and their candidates, meaning they could go either way when November rolls around every four years.

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Reaching the magic number of 270 Electoral College votes is no easy task, and for both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, their hopes of sitting in the oval office for the next four years hinge on the outcome of these five states:

Florida - 29 Electoral College votes

The Sunshine State is one of the most contentious swing states, particularly after the bitter battle between George Bush and Al Gore in the 2000 election which left everyone wondering what a 'hanging chad' was. Despite objections from the Gore camp, Bush was handed the state after a Supreme Court ruling, which made a legal challenge to the result impossible.

In the end, less than 600 votes out of the nearly six million cast decided the state, and ultimately the winner of the election. 

Barack Obama carried the state twice for the Democrats on his way to the Presidency, but polling currently suggests Donald Trump holds a slight advantage as election day draws near. However, a huge increase in the Hispanic vote has given his rival a chance of taking the state.  

North Carolina - 15 Electoral College votes

Although this is classed as a "swing state", North Carolina has only voted for a democratic presidential nominee once since 1976, when Obama took the state in 2008. However, he lost out there just four years later.

The polls suggest Clinton holds a narrow advantage over her rival. A record three million people have already voted, with independent voters coming out in large numbers, which could have a huge effect on the outcome.  

Both candidates are due to hold rallies there on Monday as they push for the final votes which might get them over the line. 

Virginia - 13 Electoral College votes

Historically a Republican state, Obama became the first Democrat to win there since 1964. The party is hoping to build on Obama's success by putting Virginia Senator Tim Kaine on the presidential ticket.  

Clinton is ahead in most polls, but the Trump campaign aren't giving up after spending $2 million on TV adverts in the state in October. Once again, there was a record number of votes cast in early voting there, which ended on Saturday.  

Pennsylvania - 20 Electoral College votes

Although commonly described as a "swing state", Republicans haven't won here since George H.W. Bush claimed victory in 1988. 

Clinton has a comfortable lead here in the polls although a transport strike in Philadelphia could impact on voter turnout. The state is so important to the democratic campaign that Bill Clinton, President Obama and Michelle Obama are due in Philadelphia today to bolster support.

The transit strike can only help republicans as the majority of their support comes from outside the urban areas of the state.

Ohio - 18 Electoral College votes 

The importance of the state is summer up in the old saying "As goes Ohio, so goes the nation". The electorate has predicted who will be sitting in the Oval Office in 26 out of the last 28 election cycles since 1904.

Indeed, no Republican has ever been elected President without winning Ohio since Lincoln in 1864, and only Franklin Delano Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy have pulled it off for the Democrats, in 1944 and 1960 respectively.  

Most polls show that Donald Trump is ahead in a state which is clearly crucial to his aspirations of occupying the White House for the next four years.

Also keep an eye on: Terre Haute, Vigo County, Indiana. 

The 108,000 residents of this small county near the border with Illinois have predicted the winner of the race for the White House since 1888, almost like clockwork; only twice have they been wrong in that time.

Image: In this Sunday, May 1, 2016 file photo, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump reacts to a song during a campaign rally at the Indiana Theater in Terre Haute, Ind. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)

Of the 76,981 registered voters, almost half are unaffiliated, have never voted or only vote in generals, meaning that they are less likely to fall along strict party lines. 

The state itself has proved elusive to many former Presidents; Obama won Indiana by almost 30,000 votes in 2008, but lost it in 2012 to Mitt Romney by close to 260,000. Bill Clinton failed to win the state either time he ran for President.

The polls currently have Trump in the lead there, with a comfortable margin.

Newstalk will have live results coverage of the election starting at 10pm tonight on air with a special election show and live updates and analysis all night on Newstalk.com.

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