Daily Election Roundup

With less than a week to go before the election, the race is still far too close to call, both in the popular vote numbers and in the Electoral College. Moreover, if an ABC News poll is accurate, nine percent of the electorate has already cast its vote, which means that the campaign from here out can affect increasingly fewer people:

Poll: Nearly 1 in 10 Has Already Cast Vote

While the 2004 election is locked in a virtual dead heat, for nearly one in 10 likely voters it’s all over but the counting: They’ve already cast their ballots. Nine percent of “likely” voters in the ABC News tracking poll say they’ve voted for president, either by absentee ballot or early voting, a number that’s jumped in the last week. Fifty-one percent say they went for George W. Bush, 47 percent for John Kerry.

That doesn’t mean Bush is “winning” the absentee vote; the difference is within sampling tolerances. And among all likely voters, including those waiting for Election Day, the race is essentially tied: Forty-nine percent support Kerry and 48 percent Bush, with 1 percent for Ralph Nader in interviews Friday through Monday.

Also interesting:

Movable voters, those who say their minds aren’t definitely made up, are another group to watch. This group is down to 9 percent of all likely voters, compared with 14 percent at the start of tracking, and movables divide by 42 percent to 41 percent between Bush and Kerry in this poll.

Bush did as well or better with movables last week; they move, and still can. And an open question is how many of them actually will vote: Movables are following the campaign much less closely than other likely voters (32 percent “very closely,” compared with 66 percent among those who’ve got a definite preference). That suggests less commitment to the process among movables.

This goes against the conventional wisdom that late deciders go heavily to the challenger. But this race confounds normal expectations in so many other ways that this really isn’t surprising.

Bush, Kerry Are Neck and Neck In Final Week Before Election (WSJ)

Only seven days before election day, President Bush and Sen. John Kerry are separated by a single percentage point, the latest Harris Poll shows. The poll echoes other surveys from across the nation showing the two candidates are in a dead heat. The latest Reuters/Zogby poll (taken Oct. 23-25) shows Mr. Bush ahead but within the margin of error, and the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll (taken Oct. 22-24) shows Mr. Kerry ahead by a point, well within that poll’s margin of error.

This survey also finds very little difference between the numbers for the popular vote as a whole and in seventeen swing states. In both cases the election is much too close to call.

They also provide an interesting interactive graphic tracking Bush and Kerry numbers over a variety of issues.

The WaPo tracking poll has Kerry up 50-48, the highest Kerry total and the first Kerry lead in weeks. Since the movement is within the margin of error, it’s conceivable that the shift is a mathematical anomaly. Given that it coincides with the media hyping of the apparent non-story on missing explosives, though, it’s reasonable to presume that it’s actual movement in Kerry’s direction. This is also reflected in the RealClear Politics averages at the state level:

10/26: MI – Toss Up >> Leaning Kerry (Bush 234 – Kerry 228)
10/23: HI – Solid Kerry >> Leaning Kerry (Bush 234 – Kerry 211)
10/22: PA – Toss Up >> Leaning Kerry (Bush 234 – Kerry 211)
10/22: ME/1 – Toss Up >> Leaning Kerry (Bush 234 – Kerry 190)
10/22: IA – Toss Up >> Leaning Bush (Bush 234 – Kerry 189)

The Electoral College projections atop my page and from other sources (see the Polls link on my top navbar) almost all show a slight Bush lead–but most have both candidates short of the 270 needed. The interesting outlier is Scott Elliot’s Election Projection, which has it as a 269-269 tie today after having Bush up 296-242 three days ago, with Kerry now leading Florida.

The Democrats have won another battle in their attempt to thwart dissedent liberals:

Court Won’t Put Nader on Ballot in Ohio (AP)

The Supreme Court on Tuesday declined to put independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader on the ballot in the battleground state of Ohio. On Friday, Nader asked the high court to review Ohio’s decision to remove him, arguing that a state law that requires people who collect signatures on candidates’ petitions be registered voters violated free speech rights. Nader’s request for a review went to Justice John Paul Stevens, who referred the matter to the full court. The justices denied the request without comment Tuesday.

Democrats, fearful that Nader could cost them votes if his name is on the ballot, had presented evidence to Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell that petition collectors registered at fraudulent addresses or places they didn’t live. Blackwell ordered Nader’s name off the ballot after a hearing officer concluded there was evidence of fraud. Nader appealed that ruling to a federal judge, who earlier this month upheld Blackwell’s decision. Nader, running as a Green Party candidate in 2000, received about 2.5 percent of the vote in Ohio. President Bush won by 3.6 percent.

On Saturday, the Supreme Court denied a similar emergency request by Nader to be placed on the ballot in the battleground state of Pennsylvania.

With Nader off the ballot in two of the three key states (he is an option in Florida), polls that continue to offer Nader as an option are virtually worthless.

Update (1327): For what it’s worth, the gambling market has Bush winning comfortably, 296 Electoral Votes to 242. (via Stephen Green).

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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 and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.