Friday, September 24, 2004

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Kerry campaign said the analysis of the presidential race that Bush strategist Karl Rove gave The Washington Times this week was only the rosy “post-convention bright side” and failed to take into account election history in crucial states such as Ohio.

“The electoral map is going to be shades of blue and gray,” Kerry spokesman Mike McCurry said. “You can take a snapshot at any one point the way Karl did and think you’re doing well or you’re not doing well. But they will change.”

Mr. McCurry also said Mr. Rove and the Bush campaign had failed to capitalize in key states on the bounce the Republicans enjoyed after their convention Aug. 30 through Sept. 2.

“The one thing that is certainly accurate is that they have tried to go in and put some of these states away and haven’t quite done it,” said Mr. McCurry, the former Clinton White House spokesman who was brought onto the Kerry campaign last week after polls showed Mr. Bush with a persistent lead in several important states.

Mr. Rove offered his analysis of the race during a 90-minute luncheon interview Wednesday with editors and reporters of The Washington Times. He said he expects Mr. Bush to win comfortably in enough key states to help Republicans pick up four Senate seats and seven House seats.

More ominous for Democrats, Mr. Rove added, is that the shrinking pool of “tossup” states include more “blue” states that Democrats traditionally rely upon than “red” states Republicans traditionally carry.

“There’s a lot more blue territory that’s been trending purple and red, and a lot less red that’s been getting any tinge of blue on it, and that’s good for us,” Mr. Rove said. “We’re forcing the battle consistently onto their” turf.

Specifically, he said he is “convinced” that Ohio is on the verge of moving out of contention into Republican hands and that North Carolina — the home state of Mr. Kerry’s running mate Sen. John Edwards — is already “gone” from contested status.

“Karl is giving you the post-convention bright side analysis,” Mr. McCurry said yesterday. “We’re hoping, obviously, that dynamic changes.”

Former Sen. John Glenn, Ohio Democrat and fervid Kerry supporter, told campaign aides yesterday not to be discouraged by polls showing Mr. Bush ahead.

“John Glenn was reminding all of us this morning about Ohio’s history of opening up big leads and then narrowing towards the end,” Mr. McCurry said.

Many strategists argue that former Vice President Al Gore could have won the 2000 race if he hadn’t given up on Ohio — where he was trailing — in the final weeks of the campaign.

“Of course, Ohio tightened up very considerably at the end and Gore almost won Ohio,” Mr. McCurry said. “Glenn and others here in Ohio firmly believe they could have won the state if they’d stayed in it.”

Mr. Glenn also reminded Kerry aides of the 1992 race when he convinced Bill “Clinton to stay on the air here even though a lot of the people on Clinton’s campaign had decided it was time to pull the plug on Ohio,” Mr. McCurry said. “Clinton thinks that was one of the key variables of winning in ‘92.”

Mr. McCurry said he expects state polls to fluctuate everywhere for the next four weeks.

“There’s going to be a lot of back and forth on this,” he said. “Discussions about specific states and the nature of the map this far out are a little bit silly.”

In the final two weeks of the campaign, he said, “you really do know which you’re close in and that’s what drives the schedule in the end.”

Mr. Kerry visited Ohio yesterday and spoke to reporters at a fire station here, casting a pessimistic view of the war in Iraq as the country’s new prime minister, Iyad Allawi, addressed Congress.

“The prime minister and the president are here obviously to put their best face on the policy, but the fact is that the CIA estimates, the reporting, the ground operations and the troops all tell a different story,” said Mr. Kerry, who added that he’s doubtful that elections can be held early next year as planned by the administration.

“The United States and the Iraqis have retreated from whole areas of Iraq,” he said. “There are no-go zones in Iraq today. You can’t hold an election in a no-go zone.”

Originally, Mr. Kerry also had planned to fly to Iowa to speak.

But those and other events had to be scrubbed from his schedule because of a weak voice. Mr. Edwards flew to Iowa and filled in for him there.

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