The 2012 presidential race will be decided in a dozen swing states, and President Obama faces a hard road to victory in many of them.

“It appears this election will be much more like Bush-Gore” in 2000, said Democratic strategist Steve McMahon, co-founder of Alexandria-based Purple Strategies. “The president ain’t gonna win by 95 electoral votes.”

Political strategists in both parties say the number of reliably Democratic states should give Mr. Obama at least 196 electoral votes, and the solidly Republican states should give the GOP nominee 191. With 270 electoral votes needed to win, the campaign will be fought in the battleground states of Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin — a total of 151 electoral votes up for grabs.

The president would need states totaling an additional 74 electoral votes, but the news in swing states isn’t good for him against the GOP front-runners. A Gallup/USA Today poll in mid-December showed Mr. Obama trailing former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney by 5 percentage points in the 12 battleground states, and he trailed former House Speaker Newt Gingrich by 3 percentage points in those states. Nationwide, Mr. Obama leads Mr. Gingrich by 6 points and Mr. Romney by 1 point in the poll.

Independents voted for Democrats by 18 percentage points in 2006 and 2008, Mr. McMahon said, but swung back to Republican candidates by about the same margin in 2010. Seniors went for Democrats by about 8 percentage points in 2008, but voted for Republicans by a similar margin in 2010.

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