The fourth of November this year, the Election Day of the 2008 U.S. presidential elections, is still a long way off, but the primary elections, in which each party chooses its nominee, is underway and is in a dead heat.
After battling to raise money, and poor performances in the early primaries in 2008, most of candidates have now dropped out of the race. A few still remain.
On the Democratic side, Senator Barack Obama of Illinois and Senator Hillary Clinton of New York are competing in a deadlocked race for the nomination which is unlikely to end anytime soon.
In the Republican race, Senator John McCain, who is from Arizona, has emerged as a clear front-runner and presumptive nominee, but former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee has vowed to fight to the end.
Other remaining candidates are Mike Gravel, a former Democratic senator from Alaska, and Ron Paul, a Republican House representative from Texas. But there is no chance of them winning the nomination.
Here is a glance at the candidates who are still in the contest.
Clinton is a senator representing New York.
She also was U.S. first lady from 1993 to 2001 while her husband Bill Clinton served as president.
In 1993, she headed a task force that proposed legislation to provide universal healthcare to all Americans. That legislation ultimately was not passed, but she continues to make universal healthcare one of her top political goals.
Experts consider Clinton the first female presidential candidate with a realistic chance of winning the nomination and the election.
Born on Oct. 26, 1947, Clinton grew up in Park Ridge, Illinois, and attended Wellesley College in Massachusetts and Yale Law School.
The Clintons have a daughter.
Name recognition and fundraising ability have made Hillary Clinton an early front-runner for the Democrats, though she has lost a series of races to Obama recently.
If Bill Clinton remains a divisive figure in American politics, the same goes for Hillary Clinton -- some estimates say one in three Americans would never vote for her. And the country has never elected a woman president.
Her fundraising efforts have not been enough to shake off close rivals, notably Barack Obama, who managed to defeat her in Iowa.
Obama is a first-term senator from Illinois.
Previously, he served in the Illinois State Legislature and worked as a civil rights attorney.
Obama has proposed legislation that would create a new employment eligibility system for companies to verify if their employees are legal residents.
Obama, whose father is from Kenya, is considered by experts to be the first African-American candidate with a reasonable chance of winning the presidency.
Obama was born August 4, 1961, in Hawaii, and has lived in many places, including Indonesia.
Obama attended Columbia University in New York and earned a law degree at Harvard University in Massachusetts. He and his wife, Michelle, have two daughters.
Time magazine dubbed Obama "America's hottest political phenomenon."
He impressed observers by showing unprecedented fundraising ability and by running a highly energized campaign.
Obama swept four contests last weekend and is well-positioned to beat Hillary in "Potomoac Primary."
Much of his weakness points to the lack of political experience.
So far, he has served less than four years in the Senate -- even less than John F. Kennedy did before he was elected in 1960.
And while his supporters praise him as thoughtful, deliberative and liberal, some experts doubt those are the characteristics that get a politician to the White House.
McCain, a senator representing Arizona, participated in the Vietnam war and was a prisoner of war for more than five years.
McCain was a presidential candidate in 2000.
He has called for a "greater military commitment to Iraq," saying that more troops are necessary to rebuild the nation and prevent sectarian violence.
McCain supports immigration reform legislation that would provide illegal immigrants a path to citizenship and establish a temporary guest worker program.
McCain was born August 29, 1936, in the Panama Canal Zone, where his father was serving in the U.S. Navy. He attended the U.S. Naval Academy.
McCain has a wife, Cindy, seven children and four grandchildren.
McCain is one of the highest-profile figures in Washington, known for sponsoring key measures against torture and in favor of campaign finance reform.
Despite falling behind the front-runners in many polls in 2007, he managed to turn around his campaign and merged as the presumptive nominee for his party.
The question for him is not if, but when to secure the nomination.
His problem is how to reconcile with the conservative wing of the Republican Party.
Although McCain says unequivocally that he is a social conservative, his frequent skirmishes with the Bush administration have made him more popular with liberals than with some conservatives.
He has also doggedly backed the country keeping troops in Iraq, an increasingly unpopular position.
Mike Huckabee is a former governor of Arkansas and a former Baptist preacher.
Huckabee, who has diabetes, received national attention for losing weight and encouraging others to improve their diet and exercise.
Huckabee says withdrawing American troops from Iraq "would have serious strategic consequences for us and horrific humanitarian consequences for the Iraqis."
Huckabee was born August 24, 1955, in Hope, Arkansas. He attended Ouachita Baptist University in Arkansas and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Texas.
Huckabee and his wife have three children.
The former governor has carved out a place for himself as a health advocate following his own turnaround from fat to fit.
Recent primaries proved that he is very popular among conservatives of the party.
However, his evangelical faith has led him to take positions that do not appeal to all Republicans.
He is also lagging behind better-known names when it comes to fundraising and campaign organization.
Although Huckabee vows to fight to the end, his chances look very slim, if not impossible, to catch up with McCain.