It’s becoming clear which will be the battleground states of the 2012 US Presidential election. With less than seven weeks to go, just nine states look competitive: Colorado and Nevada in the Southwest; Iowa, Ohio and Wisconsin in the Midwest; Florida, North Carolina and Virginia in the South; and New Hampshire in the Northeast. Of the safe states, Barack Obama can count on 18 (plus DC), against Mitt Romney’s 23.

Romney’s path to victory looks very tough for two main reasons. First, as the below map (which I produced at 270towin.com) shows, the safe states give Obama 237 electoral votes to Romney’s 191. That means Obama needs just 33 of the 110 electoral votes available in the nine competitive states to give him the 270 he needs for victory. And second, Obama is currently the favourite in eight of those nine states (all of them bar North Carolina).

The President looks particularly good in Nevada and Wisconsin — he leads by about 5 points in each. If he takes those, he’d be on 253 electoral votes and either one of Florida or Ohio would be enough to get him over the finish line. To stop him, Romney would have to win both of those and at least three more of the remaining five. Even if Romney mounts an impressive comeback in the last few weeks of the campaign, it’s hard to see him pulling that off. That’s why Obama’s the clear favourite, with the odds against his re-election at around 1/3.

Tags: Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, US politics