President Barack Obama working a rope line in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Unemployment rate: 7.2%
Electoral votes: 18

President Barack Obama captured Ohio by a narrow margin in 2008, and his campaign clearly views it as key to the 2012 race, having visited Ohio more times than any other state.

Manufacturing has long been key in Ohio, accounting for about a sixth of the state's economy. And it ranks third in the nation in manufacturing employment and output.

Obama has a particularly compelling story in the Rust Belt to tell about the rescue of General Motors, and the impact government actions had on parts suppliers and the auto industry in Ohio.

"Jobs are starting to come back," Vice President Joe Biden said during a recent swing through eastern Ohio. "And the ones that are coming back are the kind you can build a middle class life on. Manufacturing jobs."

Ohio's 7.2% unemployment rate is lower than the national average and down from a peak of 10.6%.

Mitt Romney's choice of a running mate could factor heavily here. Sen. Rob Portman, a Cincinnati native, is rumored to be near the top of the list.

By Charles Riley @CNNMoney - Last updated July 24 2012: 5:30 AM ET
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