Despite President Bush’s unnerving performance in the first debate and subsequent slippage in nationwide polls, his prospects for November 2 in the Electoral College still look good.
Republican insiders believe their man is holding his lead in a few key “blue” states that Al Gore won narrowly in 2000: New Mexico, Iowa and Wisconsin. They also believe Bush remains strongly competitive in additional “blue” states, including Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Michigan and Oregon.
Before last Thursday’s debate, a CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll completed September 28 put Bush ahead of Kerry 49% to 46% among likely voters in Pennsylvania, although the same poll showed Kerry leading 49% to 45% among registered voters. A Detroit Free Press poll also completed September 28 similarly put Bush ahead of Kerry 50% to 48% among likely voters, while Kerry led 48% to 46% among registered voters.
A Strategic Vision poll in Minnesota, also completed September 28, showed Bush trailing Kerry in that traditionally Democratic state by only 2 points, 48% to 46%.
In Oregon, however, a Portland Tribune poll completed September 23 put Kerry up among likely voters, 50% to 43%.
Republicans believe that state ballot initiatives to ban same-sex marriage should help Bush in both Oregon and Michigan.
Same goes for Ohio, where Bush has maintained a healthy lead despite strong Democratic efforts in the state. A Columbus Dispatch poll completed October 1 put Bush over Kerry 51% to 44% among likely voters there.
In Florida, the deciding state in 2000, a CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll completed September 27 put Bush ahead of Kerry 52% to 43% among likely voters.
Democrats, meanwhile, are having difficulty finding a “red” state that went to Bush in 2000 where Kerry can win this year. For example, Republicans believe Bush has already locked up both Missouri and West Virginia.
Kerry’s two best chances may be in New Hampshire and Colorado. But a post-debate University of New Hampshire poll completed October 3 showed Bush over Kerry, 50% to 45%, among likely voters in the Granite State. In Colorado, however, a Rocky Mountain News poll completed September 13 put Bush up by just one point among likely voters, 45% to 44%.
Unless he can succeed in using the two remaining presidential debates to force a fundamental shift in the underlying momentum of the campaign, Kerry may find himself in the final days of the campaign still playing defense in too many of the “blue” states and offense in too few of the “red.”
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