An Electoral Surge for Kerry
By Richard S. Dunham
This is BusinessWeek Online's second look at how the is shaping up in the 2004 Presidential race. In our first look, President George W. Bush had taken a commanding lead in the race after the GOP convention in New York. Polls had showed him ahead in 30 states with 284 electoral votes -- 14 more than the 270 necessary to win the White House.
But a week of Presidential and Vice-Presidential debates has scrambled the electoral map again. Massachusetts Senator John F. Kerry has closed Bush's lead in the popular vote and taken a tiny edge in the Electoral College.
Bush is clearly ahead in 28 states with 237 electoral votes, having lost a decisive edge in the pivotal battlegrounds of Florida and Ohio. Kerry leads in 19 states and the District of Columbia, which account for 247 electoral votes. The three toss-up states -- Florida, Ohio, and Iowa -- with their 54 electoral votes will determine the winner.
The senator must win just one of those three states to reach the 270 electoral votes necessary to capture the White House. Bush must win a megastate and at least two states captured by Al Gore in 2000, including Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, New Mexico, and Oregon.
Kerry strongly leads Bush in states with 164 votes, while the incumbent has a wide lead in states with 152. But Bush's occasionally halting performance in the Sept. 30 encounter at the University of Miami cost him support across the board, while consolidating Kerry's backing among core Democrats.
That moved six previous toss-ups (all won by Gore in 2000) back into Kerry's camp -- at least for now. The new Kerry-leaning states are Maine, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oregon, and Pennsylvania. That gives the senator an edge in eight of the 20 original battleground states, compared to nine for Bush and three dead even.
Though Kerry has momentum, he shouldn't take anything for granted. Just as the first debate reshuffled the Electoral College lineup, his appearances in St. Louis and Tempe, Ariz., could change the current political landscape. And in this roller-coaster election year, the only constant has been constant change.
Dunham is Washington Outlook editor for BusinessWeek
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