- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 15, 2004


An electoral battlefield map half its original size is prompting President Bush and challenger John Kerry to alter their campaign strategies and reallocate resources in the home stretch to the Nov. 2 election.

Both political parties see as few as 10 states as truly competitive as Mr. Bush pulls ahead in places where the contest had been neck and neck, including Missouri, Wisconsin and Ohio.

Mr. Bush has opened a single-digit lead in national polls taken after the Republican convention, which also is reflected in the polling in some battleground states.

Both parties are focusing most of their attention and advertising dollars on 10 states: Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Nevada, New Mexico, West Virginia and New Hampshire.

Reflecting the changing dynamic, Mr. Bush’s campaign this week increased its advertising in four states won in 2000 by Democrat Al Gore: Minnesota, Pennsylvania, New Mexico and Michigan.

It also was cutting back on ads in states that appear to be moving out of play: Arizona and Missouri, which lean Mr. Bush’s way, and Maine and Washington, which slightly favor Mr. Kerry. Mr. Bush also was cutting two staff positions in Arizona.

Under pressure, Mr. Kerry moved up plans to advertise in Michigan, Oregon, Maine and Minnesota — won by Gore in 2000 — and in West Virginia, won by Mr. Bush.

Florida, with its bounty of 27 electoral votes, decided the 2000 election after a lengthy recount that was resolved by the Supreme Court. And it remains closely divided.

Battered by two hurricanes and bracing for a third, “there is a lot of uncertainty, a lot of variables” on how the storms will affect voter turnout and voter attitudes, said Al Cardenas, a former chairman of Florida’s Republican Party.

David Beattie, a Democratic pollster in Florida, said that “for the last three weeks, the state has been frozen in place politically.”

Post-convention polls show Mr. Bush to have opened a lead over Mr. Kerry in Missouri, Ohio and Wisconsin.

Meanwhile, a CNN-USA Today-Gallup poll conducted Sept. 10 to 13 and released Tuesday showed Mr. Kerry had extended a lead over Mr. Bush in Michigan, a Democratic stronghold, to six percentage points.

However, strategists in both parties said privately they didn’t believe Mr. Kerry’s lead there was that large.

In battleground Pennsylvania, state polls that show an even race may be misleading and overstate Mr. Bush’s support, said Dan Fee, a Democratic consultant.

Even though it’s clearly a tight race, “I don’t see lot of people jumping on Bush’s bandwagon,” Mr. Fee said, and polls do not accurately reflect a surge in registration of new voters who are more likely to vote for Mr. Kerry than Mr. Bush.

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