California is America's most populous and wealthy state, with 55 electoral college votes.
Politically it leans Democrat, although the election of Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger as governor in 2003 was a reminder that the state was a Republican stronghold in the 1970s and 80s when voters were keen to support fellow Californians Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan.
The tensions in the state remain between the left-leaning immigrant communities and the famous Californian "alternative" lifestyles on the one hand, and the conservatism which propelled Mr Reagan to the governor's mansion on the other.
Nevertheless, the state has been solidly Democrat in recent years. Democratic presidential candidates won here in the last four elections and polling suggests that Democrat Barack Obama is likely to do the same in 2008.
Population: 36,457,549 (ranked 1 among states)
Governor: Arnold Schwarzenegger (R)
Electoral College votes: 55
California has been a place of opportunity and economic vitality since the Gold Rush and the birth of Hollywood.
The city of Los Angeles, despite having no natural resources and no natural harbour, has the nation's largest port and is its second largest manufacturer.
House of Representatives:
34 Democrat, 19 Republican
Senate: 2 Democrat
Computer technology is thriving, fuelled by a concentration of venture capital and a large immigrant workforce.
California has the most urbanised population in the nation, with over 90% classified as living in urban areas. More than three-quarters of all Californians live in LA, San Francisco and San Diego metropolitan areas.
But California also has social problems. Although its companies develop some of the world's most sophisticated technology, it has some of the worst elementary and secondary schools in the country.
California's diversity extends to its ethnic mix: successive waves of immigration over the last two centuries have bequeathed it large Asian and Latino populations.
2004: Bush 45%, Kerry 54%
2000: Bush 42%, Gore 53%
1996: Clinton 51%, Dole 38%
This has not come without tension, and in 1996 a referendum was passed which abolished racial preferences in higher education.
This direct democracy process has continued since, with Californians passing propositions on a number of issues. In 2003, Californians used a referendum to force the "recall" of Governor Gray Davis, allowing Arnold Schwarzenegger to take his place.
Are you in California? Will you be voting in 2008? How do you plan to vote? Send us your comments and predictions using the form below.
The BBC may edit your comments and not all emails will be published. Your comments may be published on any BBC media worldwide.