The striking fact about the 2004 Presidential campaign is that the longer it goes on, the more it looks like 2000. At this point, there are very few states that appear to have the potential to switch from blue to red or vice versa.
There is still plenty of time for things to change. A dramatic event could occur during the next ten days; the Democrats could pull a dirty trick on the weekend before the election, as they did last time; or the pollsters could all be making wrong assumptions about voter turnout. Moreover, in most elections it seems that there is a tide during the last few days that shifts the center of gravity by a couple of points. In 2000, the shift went toward Al Gore; in 2002, the tide ran toward Republican Congressional candidates.
Still, none of this matters unless it moves a state from one column to the other, and there are very few states that seem to have that potential. The New York Times has a good interactive electoral vote calculator that makes it easy to see the implications of a change in any state’s electoral votes.
As the race stands today, it comes down to three states: Ohio, Florida and Minnesota. Both parties have had moments of optimism in states that, at the end of the day, they won’t carry. Currently, it doesn’t look as though President Bush will carry Pennsylvania, Oregon or Michigan. On the other hand, he seems poised to win Wisconsin and Iowa.
On those assumptions, here is how the numbers look currently:
If either candidate wins both Ohio and Florida, he wins the election.
If Kerry wins Ohio but Bush wins Florida, Bush wins the election.
If Bush wins Ohio but Kerry wins Florida, the election turns on who wins Minnesota.
There is another interesting possible combination. My calculations assume that the Democrats will carry New Mexico by hook or by crook. But: if Kerry wins Florida and Minnesota, and Bush wins Ohio and New Mexico, the electoral count is a tie.
Things could change, of course, between now and Nov. 2. But at the moment, that’s where I think we stand. The most worrisome fact for the Republicans is that while momentum favors the President in the national polls, he is not currently doing as well as expected in either Ohio or Florida.
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