Bush and Kerry Focus Campaigns on 11 Key States
By ADAM NAGOURNEYand KATHARINE Q. SEELYE
New York Times
FORT MYERS, Fla., Oct. 23 - President Bush and Senator John Kerry move into the last days of the presidential contest in agreement that the race has come down to just 11 states, and have laid out plans for a barrage of visits and television advertisements across this final battleground between now and Nov. 2.
Mr. Bush and Mr. Kerry will spend virtually all their time - and most of their remaining advertising budgets - in those states, aides said, starting here in Florida, and extending as far west as Colorado and as far north as New Hampshire. [Page 24.]
Both sides have reassigned staff out of states that once appeared competitive, like Missouri for the Democrats and Washington State for the Republicans, and scattered them across the 11 states.
Fittingly enough for this year, with polls showing the race deadlocked, five of the states were won by President Bush in 2000 and six by Al Gore, the Democratic candidate. And at least 7 of the 11 states are now considered tied in nightly polls being conducted by the campaigns, aides said.
"Where we are is where we ended in 2000: with a limited number of states that are very, very close," said Matthew Dowd, a senior adviser to Mr. Bush. "And the good news for us is more of those states are Gore states than Bush states."
Tad Devine, a senior Kerry adviser, disputed that assessment, arguing that Mr. Bush was struggling in two states that were the bedrock of his victory in 2000, Ohio and Florida. "We're in enough states to win a clear and convincing victory in the Electoral College," Mr. Devine said.
This geographical repositioning comes as Mr. Bush and Mr. Kerry have sharpened rather than blurred their differences as the race comes to a close, staking out vastly different positions on tax cuts, health care, Social Security, abortion rights and America's role in the world. In the process, the two candidates have offered one of the sharpest choices between two presidential campaigns in a generation.
Of the 11 states on this final battleground, representing 135 of the 538 electoral votes, Mr. Bush won Colorado, Florida, Nevada, New Hampshire and Ohio in 2000. Of those, analysts and aides to both campaigns say Mr. Kerry has the best chance of winning New Hampshire, Ohio and Florida, while Nevada appears least likely to turn Democratic.
The Gore states in play are Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Of those, analysts and aides said Mr. Bush had the best chance of winning Wisconsin, Iowa and New Mexico.
A sudden surge by Mr. Bush in Michigan, a state that Mr. Kerry thought he had put away, caught both sides by surprise, and both men scheduled last-minute trips there for next week.
Ed Sarpolus, a pollster in Lansing, said that Mr. Kerry was paying a price for having campaigned in other parts of the country. "He hasn't been here," he said.
More than anything, Mr. Bush's aides say, his central focus over the final 10 days will be what they have always seen as his strongest suit: the fight against terrorism. Mr. Bush's advisers will attempt to command the agenda in the remaining days with an intense and grisly procession of television advertisements and attacks by Mr. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney on the issue.
Mr. Bush returned to the theme of terrorism during a campaign stop here in Fort Myers on Saturday, roaring into a rally in a procession of machine-gun-toting helicopters escorting Marine One as it settled, in a swirl of wind, in the middle of a field. It was a display of the power of incumbency and a reminder of a dominant theme of Mr. Bush's campaign. On television stations here this week, it was all terrorism all the time: images of the smoldering World Trade Center and Republican claims that Mr. Kerry would be weak in the face of terrorist threats.
"We will basically be talking about who will win the war on terror, who will make America safer and who will lead the effort to reform our government," said Karl Rove, Mr. Bush's senior adviser.
The emphasis on terrorism is part of a calculated appeal to some female voters, who tend to be among the late deciders in a campaign, and among whom Mr. Kerry has had difficulty building the kind of support Democrats typically have.
The president plans to conclude his campaign with an advertisement in which Mr. Bush, recounting the trauma of the nation these past three years, makes a personal appeal to be returned to office.
Bob Shrum, a senior adviser to Mr. Kerry, said Mr. Bush had been "reduced to a one-note-Johnny" campaign. He said Mr. Kerry would respond by challenging Mr. Bush's management of the war in Iraq, but also promising what Mr. Kerry has called a "fresh start" for the country, with am emphasis on job creation and health care.
"John Kerry has a fundamental argument that we need a president who can defend the country and fight for the middle class," Mr. Shrum said. "Bush can only talk to one half of that equation."
In a reflection of the rapidly changing landscape, Mr. Kerry's campaign has reassigned campaign workers once stationed in Missouri and Arizona - two states that have slipped off the Democratic wish list - to Iowa, New Mexico and Nevada. Mr. Bush has moved his staff out of Washington State.
Of the 11 states, all but Nevada and Colorado were described by both sides as being effectively tied. Mr. Kerry's aides said they had a statistically significant lead in Ohio and New Hampshire as well, but Mr. Bush's advisers disputed that.
The dynamics of the endgame are varying state by state, though the fact that 39 states are now considered firmly behind Mr. Kerry or Mr. Bush has made the challenge faced by both campaigns at least somewhat less daunting.
In Ohio, for example, aides to both men said the outcome was likely to be driven by concerns about the economy and jobs. In Wisconsin, Mr. Kerry's campaign is attacking Mr. Bush on milk prices, while in Pennsylvania, Mr. Bush has emphasized his opposition to abortion and gay marriage in an attempt to undercut Mr. Kerry and appeal to the state's sizable Roman Catholic vote.
But in places like Florida - arguably the most competitive of the 11 - minds seem so made up that the outcome is almost surely going to be a function of turnout and voter registration. And for all the talk of speeches, issues and conflicting perceptions of these two men, the power of get-out-the-vote operations that both sides have spent two years putting together may well prove to be the most important factor.
"Pennsylvania remains a tight race with Kerry having a slight edge, but it's just down to turnout now," said Terry Madonna, a political scientist at Franklin and Marshall College.
Eric Rademacher, a political scientist at the University of Cincinnati, said, "Our most recent polls show a dead heat," and he added that for all of the advertising money, campaign appearances and attention poured into Ohio this year, "it will still come down to ground-force execution."
"I don't think there is anything the candidates can do at this point to try to change minds," Mr. Rademacher said. Even the arrival of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California in Ohio next week on behalf of Mr. Bush may have little effect, he said, because "we've passed the level of saturation."
Mr. Dowd argued that support for Mr. Bush among Republicans would counter what he acknowledged was intense animosity toward Mr. Bush among Democrats, a remnant of the disputed 2000 election.
"You should start seeing some movement next week because people are trying to make up their mind," Mr. Dowd said. "But a big part of this is who turns out. Are Democrats more motivated than Republicans on Election Day?"
Mr. Kerry's senior aides said that Democrats in states like Florida were showing motivation and interest in levels they had never seen. A procession of polls that show the race as deadlocked has fed that sense.
"People waking up in these battleground states and the media telling them that the race is neck-and-neck - that's the greatest motivator of all," said Michael Whouley, a longtime friend of Mr. Kerry and a seasoned operative who is working as a senior strategist at the Democratic National Committee.
The candidates began the campaign this spring looking at a much wider universe of swing states, from 18 to 21. The narrowing of states is typical late in a campaign, though it does not always happen. It would not be surprising if Mr. Bush or Mr. Kerry moved to other states in the last days should they see an opening.
The starting assumption of both campaigns is that whoever wins two of the top three - Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio - will win the presidency.
Mr. Bush's aides noted that Mr. Kerry was now in a situation where more Gore states were at risk than Bush states, suggesting that might allow them to endure even a loss of those three states. In addition, they said they were skeptical that Mr. Kerry would continue being competitive in Nevada and Colorado, and that Mr. Kerry would come to regret a decision to fly across the country Saturday to Colorado.
That said, Mr. Bush is in a situation where he is still fighting in states that were critical to his victory in 2000, Ohio and Florida, and that have been critical to his re-election strategy. He returned to Ohio on Friday after a 19-day absence, during which Mr. Kerry appears to have made clear gains there.
Beyond that, even though Mr. Bush has visited Pennsylvania 41 times since he took office, some state polls still show Mr. Kerry with a slight lead there. And a brief flirtation with New Jersey, one of the more solidly Democratic states, has now been abandoned by the White House, Republicans said.
The campaigns' advertising dollars reflect this shrinking list. Both Mr. Kerry's and Mr. Bush's biggest advertising buys have been in Florida, where they have both saturated several markets.
In many ways, the contest has become a battle between character traits and issues, as Mr. Kerry tries to turn the campaign into a referendum on Mr. Bush's record and proposals for the future, while Mr. Bush relentlessly seeks to paint his opponent as intellectually inconsistent and too weak to protect Americans in a time of terrorism.
And so aides to both sides say the critical question is which candidate can determine what the debate in the final days is about - terrorism or the economy.
"The most important thing to watch is the struggle for control of the agenda," said Charles Black, a Republican consultant who advises the White House. "The president wants people to have their top priority to be terrorism and security. Kerry should want their priorities to be jobs and health care."
If I were Bush I would do a two and a half day California, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington trip to try to break loose the hold in the far west. Who knows? Planerench out.
BTT...because yesterday's post is on the first page.
Things are looking fine for Bush. If he wins Florida which I think he will easily do and can pick up two of the three in IA, WI and MN he can lose Ohio and still win. However I think at the end of the day he will win Ohio
Bush should win with around 290-306 EC votes. I will stick with my origianl guess of 320+
Here is some very encouraging news pulled off of Zogby.
According to the Detroit Free Press, Bush is up by 5% in Michigan.
He would be wasting his time here. We are under seige! Los Angeles; San Francisco Save yourselves!!!
Seriously, If Arnie would campaign for Bush, he would have a better chance. But I guess Arnie wants to stay out of it so Maria doesn't cut him off again.
More numbers from Zogby state tracking polls I pulled the below numbers from DU
Bush leads in:
New Mexico (49-44)
74 EC votes
Kerry leads in:
57 EC votes
Bush Has Two-Point Lead on Kerry -Reuters Poll
I expect these numbers to grow as the week goes on. Zogby started his state tracking recently from what I understand. If he is getting these numbers on a weekend, per Hirams statements on reps polling lower on weekend these numbers should grow nicely over the next five days.
This would be the second poll in NM to show Bush up by five.
Here ya go
When I plug the states we know are safe or relatively safe for Bush + the zogby numers I get 281 EC votes. It will be intersting to see how EV.com shows the race tomorrow. There is no way he can not come out and show Bush with a lead. If you add the Hawaii numbers you end up with 285.
Tomorrow will be interesting at EV.com
The U.S. Electoral College Calculator
Bush has Colorado.
On the Senator side, it is looking like Salazar(D) will win.
None taken, since nimrod means "skillful hunter", and he has quite artfully hunted out only the polls which support his horse in the race. That takes a lot of work.
Ohio is WAY to close to give it Kerry, w/ a solid blue. The recent polls I've seen have Bush either ahead or neck and neck. At most it should be leaning Kerry, and even that is pushing it.
I dirtied myself and followed that link back. Here is the first reply to the thread:
"I don't buy Bush's lead in Ohio, It's much closer here than the polls indicate."
They losing it... even more now.
Link made hot.
Sorry, after you took my name in vain, I couldn't resist.
Seems to ignore Zogby giving Florida AND Ohio to Bush.
In Your Fucking Face, Democrats.