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31-Oct-2004 - Words of Encouragement

31-Oct-2004 - Vote for Kerry Even in Safe States

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30-Oct-2004 - Today's Political News

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28-Oct-2004 - John Kerry's Historic Endorsements

28-Oct-2004 - 25 Years Combating LGBT Violence

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28-Oct-2004 - How You Can Protect Your Right to Vote

27-Oct-2004 - The Last Straw

27-Oct-2004 - Conservative Quotes for Kerry

27-Oct-2004 - Breaking Political News

27-Oct-2004 - Notable Quotes, Volume 5

26-Oct-2004 - Another Look at Taking Back the Senate

26-Oct-2004 - Breaking News of the Day

25-Oct-2005 - Breaking Political News of the Day

24-Oct-2004 - Can the Democrats Regain the House?

23-Oct-2004 - Early Voting Trends

23-Oct-2004 - Bits and Pieces, Volume 4

22-Oct-2004 - Bush OKs New Corporate Tax Cut

22-Oct-2004 - Beware Fox News and MSNBC

21-Oct-2004 - Gymnast Paul Hamm Gets to Keep Gold

20-Oct-2004 - Notable Quotes, Volume 4

20-Oct-2004 - Bits and Pieces, Volume 3

19-Oct-2004 - Movies Released in 2004

18-Oct-2004 - Bits and Pieces, Volume 2

18-Oct-2004 - The Crystal Prison

17-Oct-2004 - What If There's a Tie?

16-Oct-2004 - Notable Quotes, Volume 3

15-Oct-2004 - Endorsements for John Kerry

13-Oct-2004 - Notable Quotes, Volume 2

13-Oct-2004 - Bits and Pieces, Volume 1

12-Oct-2004 - Ranked Choice Voting Hits San Francisco

7-Oct-2004 - Notable Quotes, Volume 1

7-Oct-2004 - Prince Adares Shows Signs of Royal Affinity

7-Oct-2004 - Controlling the U.S. Senate

7-Oct-2004 - Key Battleground States

6-Oct-2004 - Democratic Hopes for the 2004 Elections

6-Oct-2004 - Welcome to The Imperial Gazette

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October 7, 2004

Key Battleground States as of October

As any high school civics class will teach you, the real presidential vote is, technically, not the who the most people in the country vote for (the popular vote), but rather who wins a majority of the state by state Electoral College vote.

Each state is apportioned a number of electors based on the size of their Congressional delegation - one elector for each U.S. Senate and member in the House of Representatives. The District of Columbia also gets three electors; U.S. territories like Puerto Rico and Guam do not get any. In almost every state (Maine being a notable exception), the candidate who receives the most votes in that state (even if it is less than a majority) wins all of that state's electors. And the candidate who wins a majority of the electoral votes (at least 270) wins the election.

In most years, the distinction is purely academic. But the 2000 election proved that even in modern elections, the Electoral College actually can make a difference. As you all know, Al Gore was the top vote-getter in the popular vote, but only received 266 Electoral College votes. Bush trailed with only 246, but when five justices on the U.S. Supreme Court ordered Florida's vote recount to cease, he received the state's 25 Electoral Votes, bringing his total to 271.

So we will be carefully examining the state-by-state polls leading up to the election and will provide you as up-to-date information as we can.

 

The Strong States

According to the Rasmussen Report, one of our primary sources of state-by-state polling data, John Kerry currently has a strong lead in 14 states that collectively represent 169 Electoral College votes. Rasmussen defines "strong" as a state where one candidate leads by more than 5%, putting it outside their margin of error. Kerry's strong states include California (56), Connecticut (7), Delaware (3), D.C. (3), Hawaii (4), Maine (4)*, New Hampshire, New York (31), Oregon (7), Rhode Island (4), Vermont (3), and Washington (11).

Bush currently has an Electoral College lead, with 25 "strong" states that account for 213 Electoral College votes. Note, however, that if their polls are ignoring first-time voters, as we discussed in an earlier article, some of the states that seem to be sewn up by the GOP may actually be more competitive than pundits realize. Bush's strong states currently include Alabama (9), Alaska (3), Arizona (10), Arkansas (6), Georgia (15), Idaho (4), Indiana (11), Kansas (6), Kentucky (8), Louisiana (9), Mississippi (6), Missouri (11), Montana (3) Nebraska (5), North Carolina (15), North Dakota (3), Oklahoma (7), South Carolina (8), South Dakota (3), Tennessee (11), Texas (34), Utah (5), Virginia (13), West Virginia (5), and Wyoming (3).

(This data comes from September 30th, before the first presidential debate. Although Rasmussen has released some recent statewide polls, none of them seem to have affected the Electoral College results...yet.)

That leaves 12 states with a combined total of 156 Electoral College votes that are within the 5% margin of error and are therefore considered to be "battleground" states.

 

The Battleground States

Twelve states with 156 Electoral College votes are considered to be the current battleground states. Of these, six states with 78 Electoral College votes (Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, Ohio, and Wisconsin) are currently leaning to Bush. Two states with 25 Electoral College votes (Maryland and New Jersey) are leaning Kerry. And in four states with 53 Electoral College votes (Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, and Pennsylvania), the current polling is tied.

The bad news for Kerry: even if he picks up all of the battleground states and all of the ones currently tied, and Bush only takes the ones where he's leading, Bush still wins with 291 Electoral College votes. But the bad news for Bush: Kerry trails by two percent or less in several of the "leans Bush" states, including Nevada (5), Ohio (20), and Wisconsin (10). And as we've already reported, we believe the Kerry vote is being undercounted - if he picks up those states, he wins.

 

State Analysis

Several states are shaping up to be the key battlegrounds. Here's a look at some of them.

California (55) - California isn't a battleground state, but we include it here because so many Imperial Gazette readers live here. A generation ago, California always, always voted Republican in the general presidential election. But then a funny thing happened: Bill Clinton. When Clinton took the state in 1992, it was a huge turning point for the state, and by 1996 it was considered to be a solid Democratic bet. I surmise there are a number of factors for that. Younger voters behind the "orange curtain" have proven to be more liberal than their parents. Young, college-educated professionals flocked to the state during the high tech boom, and while San Francisco (as an example) has lost 25,000 people in the last three years alone following the dot-com bust, the state on average still has a hugely disproportionate number of college educated professionals who tend to vote for Democrats. Kerry currently leads by a commanding 53% to 40% for Bush. Note that California has one of the more liberal voter registration requirements, too: voters can continue to register up to 15 days before the election.

Colorado (9) - Bush leads 48% to 44%, but the margin has been tightening a little since the first presidential debate last week.

Florida (27) - Former President Jimmy Carter, with the experience of the Carter Institute's global election monitoring behind him, warns that basic election safeguards are still not in place. The Republics have tried millions of dirty tricks already (such as trying unsuccessfully to dump African American felons off voter rolls while keeping Hispanic voters on them, knowing that African Americans tend to vote for Democrats while Hispanics in Florida tend to vote for Republicans). The bad news for Kerry: many Democrats believe that Kerry will have to win by a substantial margin to counteract dirty Republican tricks. The good news: hundreds of attorneys are volunteering to monitor polling on election day to look out for more dirty tricks, and traditionally apathetic voters, still smarting from the 2000 election, registered like never before. The registration deadline has now passed, however. The state picked up two more electoral votes after the last census, making it even more important than ever. Bush currently leads with 51% to 47%, but that was before the hurricanes, much less the presidential debate.

Iowa (7) - Currently leaning to Bush, 48% to 45%. This one may be a harder one for Kerry to pick up.

Maine (4) - Maine is a weird exception to the "winner takes all" rule in the Electoral College. In this state, the winner of the statewide vote gets two electoral votes. Each winner of the popular vote in each congressional district picks up the remaining two. One of these Congressional district winners will inevitably go to the statewide winner (because in a state with only two districts, it's impossible to win the statewide vote without winning at least one district), but it's conceivable that the loser could win in the other district - not enough to take the state, but enough to pick up a vote. In a close election, that single vote really could make a difference. Statewide, Maine seems to be fairly solidly for Kerry, but the Bush campaign is fighting hard to try to pick up one of the electoral votes, a sign of how close they really see the national election to be.

Maryland (10) - That this state is even a toss-up is surprising to me. Kerry currently leads 48% to 45%; I predict it moves back into the "solid Kerry" column within a week or two.

Michigan (17) - Kerry had this state solidly not too long ago, but he slipped behind. It's currently tied at 46% to 46%, but that poll was taken before the first presidential debate.

Missouri (11) - Seems solidly for Bush right now (51% to 45%), but most analysts still consider it to be a battleground state. Possibly because in the last several decades (maybe even longer), Missouri has always voted for the winner of a presidential election. But then, before Clinton, winning New Hampshire was always critical for winning the primaries, too. And although Missouri went with Bush in 2000, he won only after the Supreme Court gave him Florida - so they almost backed a loser.

Nevada (5) - Bush leads 47% to 45%, but it's only a two-point difference. A surprise turnout from never-before-voters could easily turn the tide for Kerry here.

New Jersey (15) - Should be solidly Democratic, but the margin slipped to 49% Kerry, 46% Bush right before the debate. With his current momentum, Kerry may have already pushed it back into his "safe" column.

New Mexico (5) - Rasmussen shows the vote tied at 46% each. Kerry can win a tie with his uncounted voters if he gets them out.

Ohio (20) - That this state is even in question is bad news for Bush. That he leads by only a single percent, 48% to 47%, is even worse. The state has lost a huge amount of jobs in the last four years, and that gives Kerry a genuinely realistic shot at picking it up.

Pennsylvania (21) - Gore narrowly carried it in 2000. Since then, they've lost two electoral votes (representing hundreds of thousands of people who have left the state since the 1990 census) and a lot of jobs. The polls are currently tied at 47% each.

Wisconsin (10) - Bush has a narrow lead, 49% to 47%, but I predict Kerry carries it in November.

 

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