The Electoral Map Tightens
By Richard S. Dunham
This is BusinessWeek Online's third look at how the Electoral College map is shaping up in the 2004 Presidential race. In our first review, President George W. Bush had taken a commanding lead in the race after the GOP convention in New York. Polls showed him ahead in 30 states with 284 electoral votes -- 14 more than the 270 necessary to win the White House. Massachusetts Senator John F. Kerry's decisive edge in the first Presidential debate tightened the race substantially and gave the Democrat a slight edge in our second electoral map examination.
Our third map shows that little has changed as a result of the two most recent debates -- the Vice-Presidential showdown in Cleveland and the second Presidential encounter on Oct. 9 in St. Louis. Going into the final debate on Oct. 13 at Arizona State University, Kerry is clinging to a narrow advantage in the Electoral College, but both candidates remain short of the 270 votes needed for victory.
Only three states have shifted in the past week. Iowa has moved from the toss-up category to leaning Kerry. And two states previously leaning to Kerry -- Minnesota and New Mexico -- have been classified as toss-ups after statewide polls show no clear leader.
SMARTS VS. STRENGTH?
Bush is now ahead in 28 states with 237 electoral votes. Kerry leads in 18 states and the District of Columbia, which account for 239 electoral votes. The four toss-up states -- Florida, Ohio, Minnesota, and New Mexico -- with their 62 electoral votes will determine the winner.
Kerry strongly leads Bush in states with 164 votes, while the incumbent has a wide lead in states with 152. The Democrat has an edge in 7 of the 20 original battleground states, compared to 9 for Bush and 4 dead even.
After first Presidential debates, voters give the Democrat an edge on character traits such as intelligence and articulateness, but they think Bush better represents their values and is a stronger leader. The final debate could prove decisive if one candidate stands out. If not, it could be a close race down to the wire, with fewer than a dozen states even remotely in play.
Dunham is BusinessWeek's Washington Outlook editor
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