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Obama moves ahead in swing states

President Barack Obama - with the help of a slowly improving US economy - is gaining ground in many of the 14 states where the presidential contest with Mitt Romney hangs in the balance.

Recent polls have shown Mr Obama gaining an edge over Mr Romney in several swing states. Their importance derives not only from their unpredictability but also from the US presidential election process, which depends on the electoral college and not the popular vote.

The swing states are Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin. Current polling shows Mr Obama leading in eight, Mr Romney in three and three with new polling unavailable.

The unemployment rate, a key measure of economic recovery, has dropped more sharply in several swing states than in the nation as a whole. A resurgence in manufacturing is helping the economy - and Mr Obama's chances - in the industrial Midwestern states of Ohio and Michigan.

And Arizona, Nevada and Florida, where unemployment remains high, are getting some relief from an upturn in tourism.

The recession of 2007-2009 hit several swing states particularly hard.

In 2010, the economic misery helped Republicans retake control of the House and gain seats in the Senate. But the Republicans cannot count on a repeat when voters return to the polls - with much more at stake - on November 6.

After an agonisingly slow recovery, several swing-state economies are finally accelerating: But things can change swiftly and the economic recovery remains fragile. A month before the most recent polling, for instance, Mr Obama was running behind or neck-and-neck with Mr Romney in battleground states.

A jobs recovery fizzled out in mid-2011, so there is no guarantee the unemployment rate will continue to fall this year.

Indeed, Mr Romney was quick to pounce after the government said job creation plunged in March after three strong months of growth. Mr Romney called the numbers "weak and very troubling.... Millions of Americans are paying a high price for President Obama's economic policies."

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