- The Washington Times - Friday, March 26, 2004

ASSOCIATED PRESS

After two weeks of trading accusations in television ads costing millions of dollars, President Bush and Democratic candidate Sen. John Kerry are virtually tied in polls in five states likely to determine who will win the 2004 election.

Polls from key battleground states — Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Wisconsin — suggest a fierce contest is under way for their electoral votes. In the 2000 election, Mr. Bush collected 271 electoral votes, just one more than he needed for victory.

In Ohio, Mr. Kerry had the backing of 46 percent, Mr. Bush 44 percent and independent Ralph Nader 5 percent, said a poll released yesterday. Five percent said they were undecided in the Ohio poll done by the Institute for Policy Research at the University of Cincinnati. Mr. Bush won Ohio over Democrat Al Gore in 2000 by a 50-46 margin.

In Wisconsin, Mr. Kerry had the backing of 46 percent and Mr. Bush of 43 percent, while Mr. Nader had the support of 4 percent and 7 percent were undecided, said a Wisconsin poll released yesterday. That poll was done by the American Research Group of Manchester, N.H. Mr. Gore won Wisconsin in 2000 by slightly more than 5,000 votes.

Recent polls in Florida, Pennsylvania and West Virginia also show the race between Mr. Bush and Mr. Kerry virtually tied. All five states are among the 17 targeted by the campaigns for their most intensive advertising.

Mr. Gore narrowly won Pennsylvania in 2000, while Mr. Bush won West Virginia and Florida — the latter by a razor-thin margin that eventually was settled by the U.S. Supreme Court — in the closest presidential election in more than a century.

These battleground states for the most part offer a hefty number of electoral votes: 27 in Florida, 20 in Ohio, 21 in Pennsylvania, five in West Virginia, and 10 in Wisconsin.

The Wisconsin poll of 600 likely voters was taken Tuesday through Thursday this week. The Ohio poll of 632 registered voters was taken March 10-22. Both polls have margins of sampling error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

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