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HOW CLOSE IS IT?

“Overall, 17 states, including the District of Columbia, are either solidly Democratic or lean Democratic and 18 are solidly or leaning Republican. Gallup defines ‘solid’ states for each party as those where the party has at least a 10-percentage-point advantage over the other, and ‘leaning’ states as those where the party has more than a five- but less than a 10-point advantage,” says Gallup analyst Lydia Saad.

That leaves 16 ‘competitive’ states where the two parties are within 5 points of each other. While the party differences among all of these make them statistically tied, the parties may be most closely matched in Kentucky and North Carolina, where Gallup finds no differences in party preferences in the first half of 2012. Additionally, the parties are within 1 or 2 points of each other in Arkansas, Florida, Iowa and New Hampshire, she says.

See the most current hairsplitting state statistics at gallup.com, titled “Heavily Democratic states are concentrated in the East.”

POLL DU JOUR

• $303 billion: the total amount U.S. families with children in grades K-12 will spend on back-to-school spending this year.

• $689: the average amount each family will spend; men shoppers will spend $740, women shoppers $640.

• $246: average amount spent on new clothes; $218 is spent on electronics, $129 on shoes, $95 on backpacks and supplies.

• 60 percent will “invest” in electronic devices; 51 percent plan their total shopping around sales.

• 48 percent shop up to one month before the first day of school; 11 percent plan to cut back on their children’s extracurricular activities.

Source: A National Retail Federation survey of 8,509 U.S. adults conducted July 2 to 9 and released July 30.

Murmurs and asides to jharper@washingtontimes.com.