Bush Leads in Missouri and Ohio

Bush gains in 2 key states (USA Today)

President Bush holds clear leads over Sen. John Kerry in the battlegrounds of Missouri and Ohio — states the president probably needs to hold to win re-election — according to USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Polls. (Related link: Poll results) Kerry is ahead in Washington state and tied with Bush in Pennsylvania, swing states that are similarly important to Democratic chances for victory. The quartet of statewide polls reflects a race that remains competitive but is moving in Bush’s direction.

Republican-financed ads attacking Kerry’s service in Vietnam and a GOP convention that focused squarely on the terrorist threat seem to have succeeded in shifting a race that has been stubbornly close for months. Bush’s margins in Missouri and Ohio are the first statistically significant leads that either candidate has held in a dozen surveys USA TODAY has taken in battleground states during this election. His 14-point edge in Missouri raises questions about whether the traditional bellwether is still competitive. The Kerry campaign hasn’t purchased air time for TV ads in the state this month. “What’s happening is more and more states that are Bush states (from 2000) are getting taken off the table,” says Matthew Dowd, chief strategist for the Bush campaign. “Now the battleground states are becoming much more predominantly Gore states, which is good news for us,” he said.

Kerry pollster Mark Mellman says the surveys, taken Friday through Tuesday, were in the field too soon after the Republican convention to be reliable. “The bottom line is there’s no poll that’s worth looking at for another week or so,” he says. “You expect these states to move back to their more natural equilibrium later on.” But Republican strategists say the surveys indicate that the momentum in the race favors Bush. A USA TODAY poll after the convention showed Bush with a 7-point lead among likely voters nationwide.

(Hat tip: Steven Taylor)

Dowd’s spin is quite persuasive. If the swing states that went for Bush in 2000 are out of play and those that went for Gore are up for grabs, Bush wins. And nobody really thought Washington was a swing state, anyway.

Scott Rasmussen shows the “solid” Electoral College numbers at Bush 213 Kerry 175, with 270 as the magic number.

Of course, Florida remains important. The latest polls I’ve seen still show it essentially tied. (Rasmussen has it Bush 49% Kerry 47% with a margin of error of 3%).

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2004, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
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.