WASHINGTON, Oct. 25 (Xinhua) -- Several key U.S. swing states, which could well decide this year's presidential election, are up for grabs in the final stretch of the race, with neither President Barack Obama nor his Republican rival Mitt Romney emerging yet as the clear winner of the electoral vote, experts said Thursday.
After the first of three debates between the two candidates earlier this month, the electoral landscape saw an unexpected shift when Romney's strong performance sent him surging ahead in the polls, the experts said.
Speaking on a panel Thursday at the American Enterprise Institute, Michael Barone, a fellow at the think tank, called the election "fluid."
"In this election we've seen the target list change, so that Wisconsin, a 14-point Obama state in 2000, is now a 2 or 3-point state (in favor of Obama) and is clearly in contention," he said.
A month ago it looked like Obama might take battleground states Florida, Virginia and Ohio and gain more than enough electoral votes when combined with victories in solidly Democratic states. Team Obama could even lose a couple of other states and still come out well ahead of the 270 electoral votes needed to clinch the election.
But all that changed after the debates. Obama has fallen slightly behind Romney in Florida, is locked neck-in-neck in Virginia and remains ahead by only several points in the state of Ohio.
"This election is very much in play," Barone said.
While voters in most of the previous U.S. elections knew whom they would vote for well in advance of Election Day, this year's undecided voters could determine the final outcome.
In 2008, nearly three-quarters of voters made up their minds before the last month of campaigning. Four years before that, the numbers were similar, but in 2000 and 1996 more than 10 percent of voters made their decisions only three days before the election, according to exit polls.
Speaking on the same panel, American Enterprise Institute Fellow Henry Olsen said one glimmer of hope for Romney is that key battleground state Ohio has a higher percentage of undecided voters than other swing states -- about 6.5 percent compared to around 4.5 percent in other battleground states.
"There are still people who haven't made up their minds. And that suggests that if Romney can cut the gap within the next week or so to about a point, then maybe he can eke a way out on top," Olsen said.
But now it looks like a tough road ahead for Romney, he added.
Both candidates on Thursday continued to campaign hard, hitting as many battleground states as possible in a bid to clinch every last vote they could among undecided voters.