Presidential Race Down to 10 States
An electoral battlefield map half its original size is prompting President Bush and challenger John Kerry to alter their campaign strategies and reallocate resources in the home stretch to the Nov. 2 election. Both political parties now see as few as 10 states as truly competitive as Bush pulls ahead in places where the contest had been neck and neck, including Colorado, Missouri, Wisconsin and Ohio. Bush has opened a single-digit lead in national polls taken after the Republican convention, which also is reflected in the polling in some battleground states.
Both parties are focusing most of their attention and advertising dollars on 10 states: Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Nevada, New Mexico, West Virginia and New Hampshire. Reflecting the changing dynamic, Bush’s campaign this week increased its advertising in four states won in 2000 by Democrat Al Gore: Minnesota, Pennsylvania, New Mexico and Michigan. It also was cutting back on ads in states that appear to be moving out of play: Arizona and Missouri, which lean Bush’s way, and Maine and Washington, which slightly favor Kerry. Bush also was cutting two staff positions in Arizona. Under pressure, Kerry moved up plans to advertise in Michigan, Oregon, Maine and Minnesota – won by Gore in 2000 – and in West Virginia, won by Bush. Florida, with its bounty of 27 electoral votes, decided the 2000 election after a lengthy recount that was resolved by the Supreme Court. And it remains closely divided.
Battered by two hurricanes and bracing for a third, “there is a lot of uncertainty, a lot of variables” on how the storms will affect voter turnout and voter attitudes, said Al Cardenas, a former chairman of Florida’s Republican Party. Still, Cardenas said Florida is a “microcosm of the country” and he sees the presidential race there – where Bush’s brother Jeb is governor – as “a percentage point or two from what the national polls are showing,” which is a slight Bush lead. David Beattie, a Democratic pollster in Florida, said that “for the last three weeks, the state has been frozen in place politically.” He said Bush didn’t get the same bounce in his state that he got elsewhere, partly because people were focused on Hurricane Frances. Many Florida television stations stuck with storm coverage rather than the Republican convention. Beattie predicted that battleground states now moving toward Bush would tighten up again as the election nears. But for now, Kerry’s supporters are watching earlier advantages slip away.