JIM LEHRER: And, next, how it looks there on the ground of two of the battleground states President Bush and Sen. Kerry visited today.
It comes from reporters, Dick Polman of the Philadelphia Inquirer, and Dan Meyers of the Denver Post.
Dick Polman, for the rest of America now more or less being ignored, what it's it like there to be in a battleground state?
DICK POLMAN: Well, it's like -- so far since April it has been basically like a seven-month monsoon.
You can't avoid getting wet. I mean you can't turn on your TV without being saturated with ads; you can't walk down the street without literally being stopped every other block in the city by people who want to sign you up as a registered voter.
And you literally can't relax in your house because you have got people going door to door and knocking on your door and asking if you would like to register or contribute.
But, you know, we've almost come to believe at this point that it's the way -- that's the way it is because that's the way... it's the importance of this election.
And it is kind of stunning to go sometimes myself to places where it's just not playing out and see the silence.
JIM LEHRER: Yeah. There is no silence in Colorado, either, is there, Dan?
DAN MEYERS: No, it's very loud here. We have just been receiving unaccustomed attention in a state that has only nine electoral votes but everybody has been here, including, as your show just said, George Bush today.
JIM LEHRER: Why is Colorado considered a battleground state?
DAN MEYERS: I think there are two reasons: One is that there is a very high number of independent voters in Colorado compared to most places.
About a third of the registered electorate is independent. And that makes it a little bit tricky to forecast here.
The other big factor in my view is that there's a U.S. Senate race involving a centrist Democrat named Ken Salazar, who's the state attorney general.
And Salazar may actually help Kerry more than Kerry helps Salazar.
JIM LEHRER: And George W. Bush carried Colorado by a large margin four years ago, right?
DAN MEYERS: He did fine, but also Colorado had about 5 percent went for Ralph Nader. And if you take that away, if you assume -
JIM LEHRER: Sure.
DAN MEYERS: -- for the sake of discussion, that that came out of Gore, then it might have been closer than people realize.
JIM LEHRER: Dick Polman, give us the snapshot view of why Pennsylvania is a battleground state.
DICK POLMAN: Well, Jim, I think it's the fact that if Bush, President Bush, denies Kerry Pennsylvania, it's very hard to imagine where Kerry would assemble 270 electoral votes; particularly since some of these states in the upper Midwest such as Wisconsin and Minnesota have been reliable Democratic states in a number of recent elections, most presidential elections going back to '92 are soon to be up for grabs right now.
So I think Pennsylvania becomes in that sense, very important to the Bush scenario. Bush has been here 41 times now actually.
JIM LEHRER: Forty-one times?
DICK POLMAN: Forty-one times; more than, arguably, I think, any other state.
JIM LEHRER: Yeah. Yeah. And how many times has Sen. Kerry there?
DICK POLMAN: About half as many but, of course, you know, he's just counting back from when he began his campaign.
But I think this event today with President Clinton was very important to the strategy of winning Pennsylvania, it's kind of like a twofer in a way, an attempted twofer because you've got the city itself and its heavy African American population.
You don't win Pennsylvania. Democrats don't win Pennsylvania unless they get a huge turnout in Philadelphia and win it by say a three or four to one margin.
The other side of the twofer is if President Bush -- excuse me -- President Clinton, very popular still in the suburbs around Philadelphia -- those counties and a lot of those people work in the city and were probably at this event today, particularly women.
JIM LEHRER: So a very well thought out decision to send Bill Clinton on his first trip out to Philadelphia today.
DICK POLMAN: Well, I think that, yeah, and what he was talking about, President Clinton also bringing up this news that developed today about the missing explosives in Iraq and Kerry hitting it, sort of giving a chance to try to sort of trump Bush on some of the security issues that are important if you are going to make that commander in chief argument.
JIM LEHRER: Yeah. Dan Meyers, there has been a development on the advertising front, the campaign advertising front in Colorado.
Tell us about that. What is going on there?
DAN MEYERS: Well, it appears that John Kerry is going off the air, not entirely because the DNC, the Democratic National Committee, will continue to fund a pretty healthy advertising budget here it appears, but Kerry himself seems to have pulled his ads.
His campaign here says -- sort of mumbles about, well, they're not quite sure what percentage they've reduced it but we are hearing that it may be all of them.
JIM LEHRER: Now, what is the rationale for that, that they think they've got Colorado or they think they've lost Colorado?
DAN MEYERS: Well, if they think they've got Colorado, they've seen some polls we haven't, so it may be that they are feeling that Colorado is a struggle.
Now no polls I need to say have them out of the running entirely in Colorado but it might be a matter of priorities. The fact is we just don't know yet.
JIM LEHRER: Well, because it's only nine votes, maybe they're banking on Salazar rather than the other way around.
DAN MEYERS: Exactly. I mean, if you had to spend a few dollars, you might want to spend them in a place like Pennsylvania or Florida or Ohio, nine votes might not be worth fighting for, but, again, I have to say we haven't been able to really get to the bottom of it yet, except to understand that the ads are at least -- have at least been reduced and may be going off all together.
JIM LEHRER: Dick, with a name like Polman, you must know what the polls are showing in Pennsylvania, right?
DICK POLMAN: Well, what's happening is that since the first debate, the first presidential debate back on Sept. 30, John Kerry has opened up a small but steadily incremental lead. In almost all of the polls, there is a new one out today also showing him up - a poll showing him up by five.
And I think that's... that sounds about right, particularly when you break down the internals, as they say. He is very, very strong, much stronger than President Bush on the economy. The economy has been a very, very important concern here because of lost jobs particularly in manufacturing.
And when you've got President Bush still up by 20 points when you are asking who stronger on the war on terrorism, he is up by 20 points and yet he is trailing slightly in the polls.
JIM LEHRER: Overall polls.
DICK POLMAN: The overall polls. I think that shows you how important the economic issues are.
JIM LEHRER: Dan Meyers in Colorado, what are the overriding issues there?
DAN MEYERS: You know, they're about the same as any place: War on terror, Iraq and economy in more or less that order.
And what we've also seen is that the independent voters in Colorado and the undecided voters here tend a little bit toward the Kerry viewpoint rather than the Bush viewpoint; that is, they might emphasize the economy a little more than Bush's strength on Iraq and terrorism.
JIM LEHRER: Is there a sizable undecided vote still to this day in Colorado?
DAN MEYERS: You know, in Colorado the polls are showing roughly 6 percent, 7 percent, which I guess is pretty big these days.
So, yeah, there is a fair amount, and those voters, when you look at their issues, tend to look like they might end up being Kerry people, although you never know until they actually get to the booth.
JIM LEHRER: How do the undecideds look in Pennsylvania, Dick?
DICK POLMAN: Well, I think when the polls just talk about likely voters, the undecideds are an extremely small number. I mean, among people who say that they're likely to turn out, they've almost all apparently made up their mind.
There's a much larger number of undecided voters if you are just talking about registered voters. And so I think that's why both campaigns in this state are still pouring so much money in; it's to perhaps pull the people out who are more likely just to stay home.
So among those people, there's maybe 8 or 9 percent of registered voters are undecided.
JIM LEHRER: All right. Gentlemen thank you both for this look inside where the campaign is actually going on. Thank you very much.
DICK POLMAN: Thank you.
DAN MEYERS: Thank you very much.