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Election '04 Hinges on Turnout

In the 12 remaining battleground states, whichever party gets more voters to vote will likely come out on top

It's becoming increasingly clear that turnout will decide the 2004 election. While one candidate could still seize the momentum in the campaign's closing week, the election is so close in 12 states that the nominee with the better political machine could come close to sweeping those battlegrounds. Barring a catastrophic collapse by President George Bush or Democrat John Kerry, 38 states are already decided.

This is BusinessWeek Online's fifth look at how the Electoral College map is shaping up in the 2004 Presidential race. Bush's commanding post-convention lead in our first review was eroded by Kerry's strong performance in the Presidential debates, which was reflected in our second electoral map as well as in our third examination of the state-by-state contest. The fourth map showed Bush making small gains in the aftermath of the debates, a trend that continues in this latest update.

FLORIDA UP FOR GRABS.

  Our shows very little change, but the Republican incumbent has taken a narrow lead in Iowa and has remained within shouting distance in two other states where Kerry has led for much of '04, Minnesota and Michigan. Two other Midwestern battlegrounds -- Ohio and Wisconsin -- remain dead even.

In Ohio, Kerry has led in four of the seven polls released the week ending Oct. 22, but all seven surveys were within the margin of error. In Wisconsin, Bush led in two, two were ties, and Kerry led in one. You can't get much closer than that. Likewise, the pivotal showdown state of Florida remains up for grabs. The Presidential rivals each claimed razor-thin leads in two of the four most recent Sunshine State polls, but neither contender was ahead by more than 2 percentage points.

With a race that close, a slight turnout edge for either candidate could prove decisive in each of these states, along with toss-up New Mexico, Kerry-leaning Pennsylvania, Maine, and New Hampshire, and Bush-leaning Nevada and West Virginia. Entering the home stretch, Kerry leads in 18 states and the District of Columbia, which account for 242 electoral votes. That hasn't changed in the past week.

WARNING SIGN.

  Bush is now ahead in 28 states with 234 electoral votes, with the addition of Iowa. Four states are now toss-ups -- Florida, Ohio, Wisconsin, and New Mexico -- and their 55 electoral votes will determine the winner. Both candidates remain short of the 270 votes needed for victory.

Bush remains firmly in control of states with 178 electoral votes, while Kerry is far ahead of Bush in states with 164 votes. The President has an edge in 9 of the 20 original battleground states, compared to 7 for the Massachusetts Democrat and 4 dead even.

The two candidates enter the final week of the campaign with Bush maintaining a narrow lead in the popular vote in most polls. But the Republicans are getting one warning sign: Polls show Bush's performance in key swing states such as Ohio, Florida, and Wisconsin is running behind his national numbers.

So if the popular vote ends in another dead heat on election night, those states could slip into Kerry's column. The lesson for Bush: Unlike 2000, only a clear popular vote victory will ensure a Republican Electoral College majority in '04.

Alabama 9
Alaska 3
Arizona 10
Arkansas 6
California 55
Colorado 9
Connecticut 7
Delaware 3
D.C. 3
Florida 27
Georgia 15
Hawaii 4
Idaho 4
Illinois 21
Indiana 11
Iowa 7
Kansas 6
Kentucky 8
Louisiana 9
Maine 4
Maryland 10
Massachusetts 12
Michigan 17
Minnesota 10
Mississippi 6
Missouri 11
Montana 3
Nebraska 5
Nevada 5
New Hampshire 4
New Jersey 15
New Mexico 5
New York 31
North Carolina 15
North Dakota 3
Ohio 20
Oklahoma 7
Oregon 7
Pennsylvania 21
Rhode Island 4
South Carolina 8
South Dakota 3
Tennessee 11
Texas 34
Utah 5
Vermont 3
Virginia 13
Washington 11
West Virginia 5
Wisconsin 10
Wyoming 3
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