So where does the electoral college stand right now? Given how the 2000 election turned out, and that there is still a good chance this race will be close, it is a crucial question.
First, based on state polls, it is possible to determine which states are solid for Bush and which for Kerry. For Bush it is Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and Wyoming for a total of 191 electoral votes. Kerry has 171 with California, Connecticut, Delaware, D.C., Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.
The remaining seventeen states are in the analysis below because either (1) one of the opponents either had a lead or was tied in one of the last five polls, or (2) the last five polls have shown an average lead for one of the candidates of 5 points or less. Let’s see how they line up:
Arkansas (6 electoral votes): Bush doesn’t lead by much, but Kerry has only led in a few polls here, and hasn’t led in any since mid-August. Even though this is a not a “Deep South” state, it probably won’t vote for a Massachusetts liberal. LEANS BUSH.
Colorado (9): This is one of the biggest surprises of this election season. Although two recent polls have shown Bush up by 12 points and 8 points, it’s not yet clear if this is a trend. The three previous polls showed Bush up by only one, and the two before that showed a tie. Rich Lowry has attributed this to an increased Hispanic presence in Colorado. Whatever the reason, I’m putting this one down as TOSS-UP.
Florida (27): The Sunshine State is probably the toughest to call right now. Bush has led in three of the last five polls, Kerry in the other two. Bush’s margins in the polls have ranged from 3 to 8 points, while Kerry has never led by more than one. One more poll showing Bush with a lead, and it will be in the LEAN BUSH category. Until then, TOSS-UP.
Iowa (7): Iowa is also a bit of a surprise. Bush has led in the last eight polls (although never by more than 6 points.) Could the Hawkeye state be poised to go GOP for the first time since 1984? LEANS BUSH.
Maryland (10): The only reason Maryland is in this list is that the latest poll, from SurveyUSA, showed a 48-48% tie. Of the previous four, the smallest lead Kerry had was nine points. LEANS HEAVILY KERRY.
Maine (4): One recent poll showed a tie, another showed Bush with a 1-point lead. Kerry has led in all of the other polls, but those showed his lead shrinking. TOSS-UP.
Minnesota (10): The Land of 10,000 Lakes has drifted Republican more than any other state since 2000. Will it be enough to put Bush over the top? The last three polls showed a tie, Kerry up by 2, and Bush by 2. TOSS-UP.
Nevada (5): Kerry led here in August, but it started to swing toward Bush in September. Bush has led in the last five polls, with one at 9 points. LEANS BUSH.
New Hampshire (4): This one is also very tough to call. Kerry led here most of the summer. Of the three polls conducted in the Granite State in September two have shown Bush with a lead, one with Kerry. TOSS-UP.
New Jersey (15): The last poll showed a tie, the one before that showed Kerry with an 8 point lead, the one before that Bush by 4. As tempting as it is to put this down as TOSS-UP, Kerry has led in too many polls here, and, besides, it’s Jersey! LEANS KERRY.
New Mexico (5): The Land of the Rising Sun is also the Land of Big Polling Disparity. Two recent polls showed Bush up by 3 and 4, while three others showed Kerry up by 5, 9, and 5.6. Have to put this down as TOSS-UP.
Ohio (20): This actually violates my rules: Bush has led the last five polls here (last eleven to be exact) and that lead has averaged more than five points. It caught my eye because the last two showed a possible shrinking of Bush’s lead. A trend? Maybe. But for now, Ohio LEANS BUSH.
Oregon (7): This is a bit of surprise too. Kerry led here throughout the summer, but he has slipped as of late, with the last two polls showing slight Bush leads. TOSS-UP.
Pennsylvania (21): Bush led in a poll here in mid-September, but the last four show Kerry opening up a small lead. LEANS KERRY.
Tennessee (11): This one should barely be in here, except that Kerry led in one poll back in August. The last four show Bush with a lead ranging from 7 to 16 points. LEANS HEAVILY BUSH.
West Virginia (5): Bush led by wide margins here in late August. It slipped some in September, but has recovered with the last two polls showing Bush leading by 6. LEANS BUSH.
Wisconsin (10): This is also a bit of surprise. Kerry hasn’t led here since early September. Aside from one tie, Bush has led in all of the recent polls, with the latest showing a 14-point lead. LEANS BUSH.
If all of the states vote the way they are currently leaning, then Bush will have 255 electoral votes and Kerry 217, with 66 in the TOSS-UP category. Bush is clearly in the driver’s seat, and of those states in the TOSS-UP category would only need to pick up Colorado and Oregon to climb over the top. It seems that he doesn’t even need Florida.
However, that is no reason for complacency. Kerry would only need Colorado, Oregon, Minnesota and Florida, and he would hit the magic number of 270 exactly. Furthermore, there are far more LEAN BUSH states than there are LEAN KERRY states, meaning that there is more room for Kerry to cut into Bush’s electoral vote totals.
And there’s still five long weeks.
(Editor’s note: This article is slightly changed from this morning as the author made a small error in the mathematical calculation of the electoral vote totals. David Hogberg and we apologize for the error — which in good faith was done to Sen. Kerry’s advantage.)