- The Washington Times - Friday, October 22, 2004

President Bush has moved ahead of Sen. John Kerry in three states won in 2000 by former Vice President Al Gore, and is statistically tied in three others, putting him in a better position than he was in four years ago.

But the president is in trouble in Ohio, which he won in the 2000 election, and may need to pick up some states that went to Mr. Gore in order to win the election.

Mr. Bush has pulled ahead of the margin of error in Iowa and now leads Mr. Kerry, the Democratic presidential nominee, 51 percent to 45 percent, according to a Survey USA poll of 690 likely voters released Thursday. In the previous poll by the survey group, the Massachusetts senator led 48 percent to 47 percent.

A new Mason-Dixon poll in Iowa, which Mr. Gore won by just 0.3 percent, also put Mr. Bush well outside the three-point margin of error, up 49 percent to 43 percent.

In New Mexico, won by Mr. Gore by just 366 votes, or 0.06 percent, Mr. Bush has jumped into a lead, 49-44, according to the Mason-Dixon poll of 625 registered voters — despite the fact that 332 (53 percent) of those surveyed were Democrats. Just 37 percent of those polled were Republicans.

The group’s last poll on Sept. 16 found the two presidential candidates within the three-percentage-point margin of error, at 47-44.

In Wisconsin, which Mr. Gore won in 2000 by 0.2 percent, Mr. Bush has jumped out to a 50-44 lead, according to the latest CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll. The last joint poll on Oct. 5 had the two statistically tied, 49-46. But the latest Mason-Dixon poll puts the two in a tie, 45-45.

Mr. Bush has also made a surge in Michigan, which Mr. Gore won in 2000 by 5.2 percent. The Mason-Dixon poll put Mr. Kerry up by just one point, 47-46, which means the president has jumped five points from the group’s last poll, which had Mr. Kerry leading 47-41.

The two candidates are deadlocked in two other states Mr. Gore won in 2000, Pennsylvania, which the vice president took by 4.2 percent, and Minnesota, won by Mr. Gore by 2.4 percent. The Mason-Dixon poll showed Mr. Kerry up 46-45 in Pennsylvania (although a Survey USA poll released Sunday showed the senator up 51-45).

The same poll put Mr. Bush ahead in Minnesota, 47-45, the same two-point lead he held in the group’s previous poll on Sept. 14.

Just days before the 2000 election, polling found Mr. Bush trailed Mr. Gore by one point in Iowa; by three in Minnesota and Pennsylvania; and by six in both Michigan and Wisconsin. The two were tied 45-45 in New Mexico.

Drawing conclusions from the plethora of new polls is dicey, said pollster John Zogby, even though Mason-Dixon and Gallup are two of the most respected and historically accurate polling organizations in the country.

“You really can only look at the polls out of the margin of error,” Mr. Zogby said. “I hate to be dodgy, but I really don’t know. They’re all over the place. You still have a long campaign to go. I would be very cautious in noting trends, even on four- or five-point leads.”

On the other hand, polls illustrate trends. For instance, the Gallup poll showed Mr. Bush up by nine points just after his early September acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention; he lost that bounce to lead by two points at the end of the month; and in the latest poll released Thursday trails Mr. Kerry by one point.

Because of redistricting, the states Mr. Gore won last time are worth 260 electoral votes — down from 266 — and Bush states are worth 278, up from 271. To win, a candidate will need 270 electoral votes.

Most election analysts agree that Mr. Kerry must hold onto Pennsylvania and win at least one of the two other most competitive big prizes, Florida and Ohio — and perhaps both — in order to defeat Mr. Bush. The president is in a slightly better position: He could lose Ohio, with 20 electoral votes, but because redistricting gave him a slight edge, he would need to pick up just 12 new electoral votes to win.

He would defeat Mr. Kerry if he grabbed Michigan (17 electoral votes) or some combination of Wisconsin (10), Minnesota (10) and New Mexico (5).

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