Let me begin by saying this is the strangest election I can recall. I've been following presidential elections closely since I was ten (yes, I know, scary) and I can't recall one in which a host of states became battleground territory late in the election. But that appears to be what has happened.
Since my last one, I've made more changes to the states that are solid for Bush or Kerry. I've put Missouri back in the solid column for Bush. Bush now has a lock on the following states for 202 electoral votes: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and Wyoming. For Kerry, I have put Oregon in the solid category, while taking Hawaii and Michigan out. Thus, California, Connecticut, Delaware, D.C., Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington are now solid for Kerry, totaling 167 electoral votes.
So, let's get started on the rest:
Arkansas (6 electoral votes): Kerry closed the gap here in mid-October, so much so that some Democratic 527 groups decided to put some money into the state. Even Bill Clinton went for a last minute visit. Will the Prodigal Son's return pull it for Kerry? Nope. Latest poll by Mason-Dixon, which is good at the state level, showed Bush had regained his lead, now at 8 points. Arkansas Votes Bush.
Colorado (9): Every poll now has Bush up here. The smallest margin, save Zogby, is 5 points. Kerry pulled out of here a while back. Colorado Votes Bush.
Florida (27): This one is close. Mason-Dixon has Bush up 4, while Zogby shows Kerry up 1. Mason-Dixon is more reliable on the state level, plus Zogby has shown Kerry's lead steadily shrinking. Plus, Senate candidate Mel Martinez will bring out the Cuban vote, which portends well for the President. Florida Votes Bush.
Hawaii (4): This is the biggest surprise of the election season. No one seems to know why, but two polls from two weeks ago showed the race essentially tied. I have heard the theory that the Filipino-Americans in Hawaii favor Bush's stance on terrorism. I've also heard the explanation that there are a lot of veterans in Hawaii who loathe Kerry. Still I don't think Bush has enough of a lead nationally to win here. Hawaii Votes Kerry.
Iowa (7): My Hawkeye state is not an easy call. Yet the only polls showing Kerry with the lead are Zogby and the Des Moines Register, neither of which I put much stock in. All others show Bush with a small lead. Given that union strength here keeps declining, and the Bush get-out-the-vote efforts is much better than 2000, Iowa Votes Bush.
Maine (4): Since polling began here in May, only one poll ever showed a Bush lead. Easy call. Maine Votes Kerry.
Michigan (17): This is the second biggest surprise of this year. Michigan should be solid for Kerry, and the fact that it is not (most polls show it to be a 3 to 4 point race) must be giving the Democrats a major Maloxx moment. Kerry is clinging to a lead here, and he is hurt by the fact that Michigan has both gay marriage and gambling ballot initiatives, which will turn out the conservatives in drove. Still, Bush has only held a lead here in one poll since early September. I still think Michigan Votes Kerry.
Minnesota (10): It is very close here too. Until a few days ago, it looked like Bush might pull away, but Kerry has picked up some steam here. Bush still has a very good chance here, but I think Minnesota Votes Kerry.
Nevada (5): One recent poll here showed a tie. Other than that, it has been all Bush since early September. No gambling here. Nevada Votes Bush.
New Hampshire (4): The Granite state promises to be very close. Yet for the last two weeks, the polls have been almost all Kerry save one, which was a tie. Word has it that a lot of Massachusetts' residents have fled to New Hampshire because of its lack of an income tax, but otherwise bring their liberal politics. New Hampshire Votes Kerry.
New Jersey (15): Kerry can't feel too good about the polls here showing it is close. New Jersey is, in a sense, the first bellwether state of the night. If Bush wins here, that sound you hear will be the fat lady clearing her throat. Yet, the Bushies won't be starting the party that quick. Bush paid a visit here fifteen days before the election, but hasn't been back since, preferring to focus on Michigan. That tells me New Jersey Votes Kerry.
New Mexico (5): The polls have bounced back and forth in the Land of Enchantment. Right now, it looks good for Bush, but Kerry winning here would not be a shocker. New Mexico Votes Bush.
Ohio (20): Until last week, Bush had gone missing from Ohio for a period of about two weeks. I thought this troubling, since the polls showed Kerry leading. But this shows why they run campaigns, and I just write about them. Apparently the Republican Party has a very intricate get-out-the-vote organization here and it is questionable to what extent the Democrats have much of anything comparable. Add to that the fact that social conservatives will come out in droves to vote for a ballot initiative banning gay marriage, and it is not surprising that most of the recent polls show Bush opening up a small lead. Looks like the conservatives are coming home. Ohio Votes Bush.
Pennsylvania (21): Kerry's lead seems to have shrunk a little in the last week. But it seems too little too late. Kerry will win here by 1 to 2 points. Pennsylvania Votes Kerry.
West Virginia (5): Bush appears to up by 8-9 points here now. West Virginia Votes Bush.
Wisconsin (10): This may be the toughest state to call. Bush led in the polls here until last Wednesday, and then Kerry showed a small lead. The one factor I see playing in Kerry's favor is that Democratic Senator Russ Feingold will win big here, probably pulling some people toward Kerry. It won't surprise me if Bush wins here, but for now I'm betting Wisconsin Votes Kerry.
By my count, that is Bush 286, Kerry 252.
A few final thoughts:
First, Bush supporters have some cause to be nervous. If either Florida or Ohio votes Kerry, well, you can do the math. Both of those states are still close. Ohio is particularly troubling as it is a state that shouldn't be too hard for the GOP to prevail (and for why it isn't, go here).
That said, Kerry supporters should be even more nervous. Of the states that Bush won last time, Kerry is battling Bush only in Florida, Ohio, and New Hampshire. New Hampshire may be irrelevant; thanks to reapportionment, Bush can lose New Hampshire but win all of the other states he won last time and still come away with 274 electoral votes. Of the states that Gore won last time, Bush is battling Kerry in Hawaii(?), Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. In short, Bush is fighting far more on Kerry's territory than vice-versa. Bush has more room to make up a loss in Ohio than Kerry does to make up a loss in Michigan.
Finally, if Kerry should pull out a squeaker, I hope that Bush concedes in a timely fashion. He should not mount a Gore-like legal challenge barring substantial evidence of voter fraud in a state that went narrowly for Kerry. There are three reasons. First, we are trying to bring democracy to the Middle East, and we will be setting a bad example if we can't resolve our elections shortly after the polls close. Next, opinion polls show Americans worried that we are headed for another Florida-like imbroglio; another one this time, and Americans will become increasingly cynical about our system of government, something that could hurt us in the long run. Finally, Bush should do it for the good of the GOP. If he mounts a legal challenge, the Party will take a long time recovering from a media-hyped charge of hypocrisy.
During his four years in office, President Bush has conducted himself with considerable dignity and honor. I expect no less of him this evening.
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