I did something I don’t normally do. I swiped the whole thing. I don’t feel too much guilt, as I’m sure with them having 2 out of 6 slots on our tracking tool, we are sending them a ton of traffic.
President Bush continues to maintain a structural edge in the Electoral College that has worked to his advantage this entire campaign. However, the states that are producing that advantage have shifted since the summer.
In our initial electoral analysis we suggested that the election would boil down to Florida and Ohio, with Kerry having to win one of those two states and President Bush simply needing to carry them both to gain reelection. At the time we suggested that one of the President ‘s advantages was the possibility of offsetting a loss in Ohio or Florida by poaching some of the Gore states (IA, WI, MN NM, and OR), giving the President an alternate option of collecting an EC majority that Senator Kerry really never had.
As of today this alternate option, if necessary, for President Bush is starting to look more and more like a very real possibility. Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota and New Mexico are fully in play: eight days before the election Bush holds leads in the RCP State Averages in all four of these states. This is seriously complicating Kerry’s strategy in getting to 270 Electoral Votes. Conventional wisdom for months, including RCP’s, had been that whoever won two of the “big three” Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida would almost certainly become President.
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While it may still be likely that whoever carries two out of those three will win the election, it is not the cut and dry proposition it was earlier. President Bush can offset a loss in Ohio (and New Hampshire) by carrying Wisconsin and either Iowa, New Mexico or Minnesota. He can offset a loss in Florida (and New Hampshire), by winning three of those four states. Winning Wisconsin, Iowa, Maine’s 1 Electoral Vote and holding New Hampshire would also allow President Bush to gain reelection while losing Florida.
Turning the conventional wisdom completely on its head President Bush could even lose all three of Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida and still win, as long as he was able to flip Michigan. Granted, it’s difficult to imagine a scenario where Kerry would win Pennsylvania and Ohio yet lose Michigan, but with a poll in Michigan showing the President ahead by five and Mason-Dixon calling it a one point race, coupled with a gay marriage initiative and Ralph Nader on the ballot (unlike PA and OH), it’s not totally impossible. In this scenario Bush victories in Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin could offset the loss of Florida’s 27 Electoral Votes and Michigan would offset a loss in Ohio, leaving Kerry with a measly three electoral vote pick up.
While the Michigan option is a little far-fetched the other two are not. The problem for Senator Kerry is he has no backup plan to not winning in either Florida or Ohio. The problem for President Bush is that Kerry is still very much alive in both those states. All of Bush’s backup Electoral scenarios will be irrelevant if he loses FL and OH and Kerry hangs on to PA and MI.
As the race sits today, the President holds roughly a three point lead in the national race. At the state level, using the RCP state averages to allocate the Electoral College, President Bush would win 306 – 232. However, the final movement in the national polls will have an exaggerated effect on that electoral tally. If Bush starts to pull away this week and can close strong building back toward his 5-7 point lead of September, that Electoral number could easily expand to 352 – 186. A small tightening towards Kerry in the final days from where we are today would indicate a dead heat race, where many of those electoral scenarios mentioned above could very well come into play. A strong break towards Kerry and most of these states would flip his direction leading to something like a 311 – 227 Kerry win.
Keep an eye on the RCP National Average. Eight days out it shows Bush ahead by roughly three points. Where that number is a week from today will be the best tell on how this race will turnout.
You can watch that average, of course, on our tracker. But if you have not checked out RCP’s other content, you are missing the boat.