New Mexico has seen knife-edge results in the last two presidential elections. In 2000 Al Gore won by a margin of just 366 votes, and in 2004 President Bush took the state with a majority of less than 6,000.
The state's congressional delegation is also fairly evenly split, although the balance could be tipping in favour of the Democrats in 2008.
They have a chance to pick up the Senate seat being vacated by Republican Pete Dominici, and could also gain a House seat in New Mexico's first congressional district, which the Republicans won by only 875 votes in 2006.
Population: 1,954,599 (ranked 36 among states)
Governor: Bill Richardson (D)
Electoral college votes: 5
The state divides politically along geographical lines, with Democrats strong in the more urbanised north and Republicans dominant in the south-east, which borders Texas.
The Democrats have a powerful spokesman in New Mexico, in the form of the state governor, former Energy Secretary and UN Ambassador Bill Richardson.
Ambassador Richardson, who is of Hispanic origin, is seen by Democrats as a valuable link to New Mexico's substantial, and growing, Hispanic community: presidential hopefuls must win the Hispanic vote to succeed here.
Hispanic-Indian culture dominates, especially in the north and west, and a third of the population use Spanish as their first language.
New Mexico has the highest percentage of Hispanics of any US state (42%), topping as it does the stretch of historic Indian-Spanish settlement that runs down South America to the tip of Argentina.
House of Representatives:
1 Democrat, 2 Republican
Senate: 1 Democrat, 1 Republican
The Spanish settled in the state in 1598.
But while culturally distinct, New Mexico's 20th Century was in many ways a very American one. Los Alamos, in the north of the state, was the headquarters of the Manhattan Project and the state's Second Congressional District was the location for the first ever atomic bomb test explosion in 1945.
The military is still important to the area and much of Albuquerque's economy, the state's financial engine, depends on the defence, scientific and research sectors.
2004: Bush 50%, Kerry 49%
2000: Bush 48%, Gore 48%
1996: Clinton 49%, Dole 42%
Hi-tech computing industries such as Intel have also made an impact upon New Mexico, although the government still provides around a quarter of the state's jobs.
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