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Electoral College Update

Since Debate One John Kerry’s numbers have improved -- but for how long after tonight?

By 10.13.04

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WASHINGTON -- Let me begin this analysis of the Electoral College by admitting a mistake. Contrary to my initial impression, the first debate has had a very positive effect for the Kerry Campaign. Whether Kerry can maintain that momentum is the subject of a later column.

Also, I'll do my last column on the Electoral College right before the election. In that one I will call all of the states for one of the candidates. Until then, I can still cop out by using the TOSS-UP category.

Since my last analysis, I've made three changes to the states that are solid for either Bush or Kerry. I've removed Missouri from the Bush column while adding Tennessee. For Kerry, I've added Maryland, as the latest poll has him up by double digits. Thus, Bush still has 23 solid states for a total of 191 electoral votes; they include Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and Wyoming. Kerry has improved to 181 solid electoral votes with California, Connecticut, Delaware, D.C., Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.

Arkansas (6 electoral votes): Kerry has little chance here, as Bush is nearing a double-digit lead in the polls. This almost goes in the solid Bush column. LEANS HEAVILY BUSH.

Colorado (9): A recent Gallup poll showed the candidates tied. Two more recent polls show Bush with an 8 and 9-point lead. No poll here has ever shown Kerry with a lead, so I'm cautiously putting this down as LEANS BUSH.

Florida (27): Last time I wrote, "One more poll showing Bush with a lead [in Florida], and it will be in the LEANS BUSH category." And then another poll came out showing Bush with the lead. Then two polls were released showing Kerry with a small edge. Now, three more polls show Bush taking the lead again. So, one more poll and this goes in the LEANS BUSH category -- I promise. TOSS-UP.

Iowa (7): Iowa is one of the states in which Kerry's first debate performance seems to have had a serious impact. After trailing all of September, Kerry now leads by 1 point in two polls. The Hawkeye State was still in the LEANS BUSH category a week ago, but now it is a TOSS-UP.

Maine (4): Little movement here. Most recent poll has Kerry up by only 2. Still a TOSS-UP.

Minnesota (10): The first debate may have had the biggest impact on the Land of 10,00 Lakes. Kerry appears to be opening up a lead with a recent poll showing him up 7 points. Switch from TOSS-UP to LEANS KERRY.

Missouri (11): A recent poll showed Bush's lead shrinking to 2 points here. The Kerry campaign may have been premature in pulling advertising from the Show Me State. Since Kerry is not on the air here, this state LEANS HEAVILY BUSH.

Nevada (5): Bush's lead here has shrunk a little, but it still looks good. LEANS BUSH.

New Hampshire (4): Of the five recent polls here, three show a tie, one shows Kerry up 7, the other Bush up 5. The very definition of TOSS-UP.

New Jersey (15): Looks like the one mid-September poll showing Bush with a lead reflected the incredible momentum Bush had back then. Ten polls since then show two ties and eight with a Kerry lead. One more in favor of Kerry and Jersey goes into the solid column. LEANS HEAVILY KERRY.

New Mexico (5): Of the four recent polls here, two show Bush up, two show Kerry. Still a TOSS-UP.

Ohio (20): Another state in which Kerry's debate performance had a substantial impact. Bush led or was tied in every poll since mid-August. Two recent polls show Kerry up one. This has to give the Bush Campaign indigestion. Goes from LEANS BUSH to TOSS-UP.

Oregon (7): This one is close to going LEANS KERRY but not yet. One poll showed Kerry up 7, but a more recent one showed the lead shrinking to 2. TOSS-UP.

Pennsylvania (21): Bush actually led in two polls here in late September. Kerry has since regained the lead, but the latest polls show the lead at only 2 points. Kerry can't be happy that after the first debate he isn't running away with it in the Keystone State. LEANS KERRY.

West Virginia (5): A recent Zogby poll puts Bush up six. This state still LEANS BUSH.

Wisconsin (10): Every poll here since mid-September has shown Bush with a lead, except a recent one that showed Kerry up by 4. Combine that with the fact that the other recent polls show Bush's lead shrinking, and I'm tentatively moving this from LEANS BUSH to TOSS-UP.

Assuming all the states vote the way they are leaning, my electoral count is Kerry 234, Bush 227, with 77 as TOSS-UP.

If the Bush Campaign isn't nervous going into tonight's debate, it should be. Another bad performance from Bush, and Kerry could gain a lot more momentum. Furthermore, during the 20th Century no Republican won the White House without also winning Ohio. Bush's slippage there is cause for concern.

That said, the current numbers may reflect the tail end of the bounce Kerry received from the first debate. As good as that was for him, he has only been able to pick up 17 electoral votes since I last wrote about this. The ones he has sent into the TOSS-UP column are only there marginally.

Kerry clearly needs more mishaps from the Bush Campaign to keep the "BIG MO'" going. And that's not a very good strategy.

On a related note: Tonight I will be on a panel discussion of the election hosted by America's Future Foundation. The event will take place at the Fund for American Studies, at 1706 New Hampshire Avenue NW. Drinks will begin at 7pm, dinner and panel discussion at 7:30pm. You'll need to RSVP at roundtable@americasfuture.org.
To gain entrance you must also buy me a beer. Just kidding -- but I won't stop you from buying me one if you like.

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David Hogberg is a senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research.  Follow David Hogberg on Twitter.