PoliBlogger takes a crack at handicapping the 2004 presidential contest. He notes that, were the 2000 election to repeat itself exactly, Bush would gain 7 electoral votes simply by virtue of reapportionment (the fact that several states, mainly in the Democrat dominated northeast lost population which mainly shifted to the Republican dominated Sun Belt). He also speculates the very close states from last go-around would all likely go to Bush, given his popularity and incumbency. All of this would give Bush a comfortable win.
Of course, as he notes, the election isn’t going to be held today and a lot could happen. If Bob Graham were to somehow win the nomination, he would have to be the favorite in Florida; otherwise, it should be Bush’s to lose.
The really interesting question to me is California. There was a time, not so long ago, when that state routinely voted Republican for president. Indeed, that fact and the party’s strong showing in the South and Mountain West were thought to give the GOP an “Electoral College lock.” Clinton picked that lock in 1992, repeated in 1996, and Gore won in 2000. What changed? The end of the Cold War. Now that national security is back in play as a key issue, arguably the key issue, it is not out of the question that Bush could win the Golden State next year, especially if the economy gets back into gear.