Page last updated at 16:36 GMT, Thursday, 7 August 2008 17:36 UK

Q&A: What happens next in US election year?

The race for the White House is starting to heat up, as Barack Obama for the Democrats and John McCain for the Republicans look forward to their official nomination as the candidates at the party conventions.

Both are now moving to centre stage, as they start to roll out their campaign advertisements and the press examine their opinions on national and international issues.

The actual presidential election will be held on 4 November.

What remains to be decided before the conventions?

Neither Mr Obama nor Mr McCain has chosen a vice-presidential running mate yet.

The Democrat has picked a three-member, high-profile selection panel which includes Caroline Kennedy, daughter of the late President John F Kennedy.

It is an open question whom he will choose, although Hillary Clinton's campaign has distanced her from the competition.

According to Republicans close to Mr McCain's campaign, Reagan administration veteran AB Culvahouse is advising him on his choice.

There are fewer Republicans in Congress, which may restrict Mr McCain's choice.

When and where will the parties convene?

The Democrats will hold their convention in Denver, Colorado, on 25-28 August.

The Republicans meet in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on 1-4 September.

When do the big debates start?

TV debates are due to be held on 26 September, and 7 and 15 October.

The running mates, whoever they turn out to be, will hold a single televised debate on 2 October.

Earlier in the year, it was suggested that there may also be a series of unmoderated, town hall-style debates between Mr Obama and Mr McCain. However, the candidates have failed to agree on any specifics for these debates and, as the pace of campaigning picks up, there seems less chance of them happening.

Which states can expect special attention on the campaign trail?

Mr McCain and Mr Obama have been focusing attention on the states that could vote either way in November.

The list includes large ones like Florida, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania, and smaller ones such as Colorado, Iowa, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, New Hampshire, Oregon, Virginia and Wisconsin.

Will Mrs Clinton still figure in the election?

Although it is understood that she is unlikely to make it onto the list for vice-president, she could be angling for a job in Mr Obama's administration, if he is elected.

But first she must focus on paying off the debts accumulated by her campaign during the primaries. Something which Mr Obama has encouraged his supporters to help her with.

Electoral College votes

Winning post 270
Obama - Democrat
McCain - Republican
Select from the list below to view state level results.

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