Sunday, October 31, 2004
Electoral College 'tied,' too
By Ron Fournier
The Associated Press
WASHINGTON - President Bush and Sen. John Kerry are virtually tied in the Electoral College count, fighting over 8-10 states so close and unpredictable that anything is possible Tuesday night.
"Under normal circumstances, undecided voters break against the incumbent this late in an election. However, these are not normal circumstances. This is a time of war," said Michigan pollster Steve Mitchell.
"The question then becomes, will this be different than most years? Will swing voters decide they don't want to change horses in midstream?" he said.
The answer comes in two days - or more, if there is a repeat of the 2000 recount - for a Republican incumbent and his Democratic challenger who are marshaling two vastly different and unproven get-out-the-vote operations in the battleground states.
Polls suggest the nation is evenly divided or leaning toward Bush, but the popular vote does not determine who wins the presidency. The White House goes to whoever earns 270 state electoral votes, a majority of the 538 available.
According to an Associated Press analysis, 26 states are solidly behind Bush or lean his way for 222 electoral votes. Kerry has 16 states plus the District of Columbia secured or leaning his direction for 211 electoral votes.
It is down to this: Bush needs to scrape together at least 48 of the remaining 105 electoral votes to keep his job. Kerry needs 59 to move into the White House.
The remaining 105 electoral votes are in the eight most competitive states: Florida, Ohio, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota and New Mexico.
Two other states fall just outside the toss-up category - Michigan and New Hampshire, both of which tilt slightly toward Kerry. An additional six to 12 states, including the slow-voting Democratic bastion of Hawaii, could come into play if neither Bush nor Kerry wins a clear majority of the popular vote.
It would take a modest burst of momentum, a swing of 3 or 4 percentage points, to produce a lopsided Electoral College victory for either Bush or Kerry.
The president narrowly took three of the toss-up states in 2000, when he lost the popular count to Democrat Al Gore but won the Electoral College with 271 votes. He claimed Ohio and Nevada on Election Day, and sweated out a 36-day recount before a Supreme Court ruling awarded him Florida and the White House.
Among the toss-ups, the most important states are Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania, with 68 electoral votes combined. Victory in any two of the three by either man would propel him toward victory.
Pennsylvania is Kerry's best state of the eight toss-ups.
Among the three Upper Midwest states, private polling shows Kerry with a small but steady lead in Minnesota. In Wisconsin, Kerry has had trouble with his political base, primarily blacks. Iowa figures to be the toughest Gore-won state for Kerry to retain.
New Mexico, where Gore eked out a 366-vote victory, seems just as close now.
Among the three toss-up states that went GOP in 2000, Nevada may stick with Bush despite his support of a hated nuclear-waste dump and the influx of Democrat-leaning Hispanics.
Both campaigns claim a slim lead in Florida, but public polls suggest Bush may have an edge.
Ohio is tough for Bush. The state has lost 232,100 jobs since the president took office, and organized labor and other groups aligned with Kerry have mounted a paid turn-out-the-vote drive to compete with Bush's volunteer-driven effort.
In Ohio and elsewhere, Republicans fret privately over signs that Democratic turnout will be larger than they had expected.
In every state, voting blocs are showing signs of unpredictability.
Bush may increase his small share of black and Jewish votes, boosting his chances in Michigan, Florida. Young and Hispanic voters, who tend to slip below pollsters' radar, could give Kerry winning margins in GOP-leaning states such as Colorado and Nevada.
As per the 12th Amendment, the election goes to the House of Representatives when no candidate wins a majority of electors. This would happen Jan. 6, the day the electoral votes are officially counted. The newly elected House then would choose the president, with each state delegation casting one vote.
The new Senate would select the vice president.
Up for grabs
Electoral vote counts: