Bush, Kerry Split in 3 Key Swing States

Bush, Kerry Split in 3 Key Swing States (Ron Brownstein, LAT)

Diverging trends in the three largest battleground states point toward a volatile and tense finish in the presidential race, new Times polls show. The surveys find President Bush holding an 8-percentage-point lead among likely voters in Florida, Sen. John F. Kerry opening a 6-percentage-point advantage in Ohio, and the two men battling to a dead heat in Pennsylvania.
These three states have drawn more time and attention from the candidates than any others, and many analysts in both parties think that whoever wins two of them will have a clear advantage in the race for the 270 electoral votes needed to win the White House.

The Times’ results portray a slightly closer race in Pennsylvania than most other recent public surveys, which have shown Kerry with leads of 2 to 5 percentage points. In Ohio and Florida, surveys over the last few weeks have oscillated, with Kerry and Bush trading the lead depending on the poll. But Kerry’s advantage in Ohio in The Times survey is larger than in any other public poll this month, and Bush’s edge in Florida is larger than in any other recent public survey except a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll conducted last week that also found him leading by 8 points.

The conflicting public polling results, especially in Ohio and Florida, seem certain to reinforce both campaigns’ belief that these three vital states remain within reach for each of them — with their competing efforts to turn out the vote likely to tip the balance. “Unless something breaks loose in the next couple of days … it is going to be a muscle campaign on election day,” said John C. Green, a University of Akron political scientist.

It’s quite amazing that all three of those states are still too close to call–although it has looked for some time like Kerry will take Pennsylvania.

Scott Elliot’s Election Projection has Kerry taking Pennsylvania and Ohio–and still losing: Bush 276 – Kerry 262 .

Electoral-Vote.com has Kerry taking Pennsylvania and Ohio as well–and not yet winning: Kerry 260 – Bush 254.

RealClear Politics has all three states too close to call, although with Kerry holding razor thin margins in Pennsylvania and Ohio and Bush in Florida. Their more conservative model has it Bush 227 – Kerry 207, with all three key states and several others unassigned.

Slate’s Election Scorecard gives the race to Kerry, just barely: Kerry 272 – Bush 266.

Analysis Oct. 28, 11 a.m. ET: We’re back where we were a couple of days ago. Bush looks safer in Florida. Kerry looks safer in Ohio. We’re skeptical of Kerry’s chances in Colorado and Bush’s chances in Minnesota or Michigan. Unless Bush gives back New Mexico, which appears unlikely, Iowa isn’t enough to give Kerry the election. So our money is still on Wisconsin to decide the outcome, and the case for keeping those 10 electoral votes on Bush’s side is weakening by the day.

Update 12:20 p.m. ET: In this morning’s Wisconsin analysis (see below), we warned that we’d pull the trigger if one more poll showed the slightest lead for Kerry. ARG now has Kerry up 1. The state moves to Kerry, and with it (for now) the election.

Several other polls are available at the top of my navbar but they simply reinforce the tightness of the race. There are still ten or so states that are just too close to call at this point.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.