States Emerge as Battlegrounds in 2004, 06/07/04
Election Day is still more than five months away, the presidential campaigns are
already eyeing keys battlegrounds that both candidates are hoping to swing in
their favor -- one state at a time.
Both Republican incumbent
George W. Bush and Democratic contender John Kerry are preparing for a tough fight.
The country is almost evenly divided between Republican states, typically colored
red on election night, and Democratic, or blue, states. In some parts of the country,
the race will be particularly close, and in these "swing" states --
where political analysts believe either candidate could win -- both parties are
working extra hard to make sure their party comes out ahead.
so many states -- 16 in all -- that were won by President Bush in 2000 by less
than 6 percentage points, the traditional campaign strategy of focusing only on
big states with many electoral votes is changing. The states that are likely to
see the closest races this year include Florida, Ohio, Missouri, Pennsylvania
and Iowa. Arizona, Colorado, West Virginia and Louisiana could also go either
way come November.
are the candidates doing to win over voters in these crucial parts of the country?
So far, both the Bush and Kerry campaigns are spending more money than usual on
advertising and visits to swing states to try and tip the balance early in the
race. The candidates have more money to spend then in the past, because both declined
federal campaign dollars, which have a spending limit, and chose to raise as much
as possible on their own.
In addition to running television ads on cable
and local stations in well over a dozen swing states, President Bush has been
getting out in person by way of his "Yes, America Can" bus tour, which
has already stopped in cities like Dubuque, Iowa -- which doesn't see many presidential
motorcades rolling down Main Street. John Kerry spent a reported $2 million last
week on advertising in Colorado and in Louisiana, where he also campaigned in
person in early May.
Florida, one of the biggest battleground states, the 2000 election was decided
by just 537 votes for George Bush, sending the state's 27 electoral votes his
way. Mr. Bush won Florida by fewer votes than third-party candidate Ralph Nader
received --- which is one reason Democrats have been publicly asking the independent
candidate not to run again. Floridians have only voted for two Democratic presidents
in recent history: Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton.
Ohio, with 20 electoral
votes, has voted for the winner of the last ten presidential elections, but Bush
won in 2000 by only 3.5 percentage points. Cities like Dayton, Akron and Columbus
are likely to vote for Kerry (as they voted for Al Gore in 2000), while suburban
and rural Ohioans will probably vote to reelect George W. Bush. The state's heavy
industry has been hard-hit by job losses under the current administration, which
could push voters toward the Democrats. On the other hand, Ohio is a socially
conservative state where gay marriage is illegal but carrying a concealed weapon
is not. The Bush campaign is already building an army of volunteers 50,000 strong
to get the vote out, while independent organizations that support Kerry are running
tough ads across the state.
In Missouri, Democratic Rep. Dick Gephardt
is said to be on a list of Kerry's potential running mates. That could help the
Democrats carry the state, which Mr. Bush won by only 3 percentage points in the
2000 election. Republican Gov. Tom Vilsack of Iowa, another swing state, is also
said to be in the running for the number two spot on the ticket, but then again,
so are another dozen or so qualified people from around the country.
growing Latino population and a large number of retirees could tip Arizona and
Colorado, which traditionally vote Republican, in Kerry's favor. Republicans hope
social conservatives coupled with growing suburbs may help the reverse happen
in Pennsylvania, a historically Democratic state where Gore only got 51 percent
of the vote in 2000.
candidates -- along with their advertising specialists, speechwriters and volunteers
-- will continue pursuing voters in swing states straight through their parties'
respective national conventions (July for the Democrats, August/September for
will pare down after the conventions," Matthew Dowd, one of President Bush's
chief strategists, recently told The New York Times. "We will ask ourselves,
is Delaware really a swing state? Is Arizona really a swing state, or is it OK
Brill, Online NewsHour
2004 MacNeil/Lehrer Productions