BARELY KERRY 


Editor's note: This is the last article in a weekly series of polling updates on the Nov. 2 presidential election.

The presidential race is incredibly close, with Kerry leading by 58 electoral votes – and the crucial states of Florida and Ohio (47 votes) barely in the Kerry column. On Oct. 25, the latest nonpartisan state polls put Kerry ahead. The Massachusetts senator currently leads in former Bush states Colorado and New Hampshire, while Shrub has the edge in former Gore states Iowa, New Mexico and Wisconsin.

Five of the 21 states that Kerry leads (with 98 total votes) fall within a 4 percent polling margin of error: Colorado, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Florida and Ohio; while Bush is vulnerable in six: Arkansas, Wisconsin, West Virginia, Iowa, Nevada and Virginia.

Last week, Bush gained ground in 20 states, taking fresh leads in Wisconsin, Nevada and New Mexico. Bush's biggest percentage gains were in Indiana (up 9 percent), New Mexico (8.8 percent), Georgia (7 percent), Oklahoma (7 percent) and Nevada (4.3 percent).

Kerry improved in 13 states, moved ahead in Colorado (an 8.5 percent shift) and also had big gains in California (up 10 percent), Maine (9 percent), North Dakota (9 percent), Oregon (7.6 percent), Alabama (6.5 percent), Michigan (5.5 percent), New Hampshire (4.8 percent) and West Virginia (4.6 percent).

Florida continued to gyrate, recording ties in four of the week's polls and favoring each candidate (by 1 percent or 2 percent) in others.

On Oct. 25, University of Minnesota polling analyst Janet Munro predicted a final Kerry victory by 18 electoral votes and estimated his chances of winning the election at 64 percent. Princeton University analyst Sam Wang (also on Oct. 25) saw Kerry winning by 62 votes. Professor Wang estimated Kerry had the following percentage chances of winning these tossup states: Florida, 75 percent; Ohio, 62 percent; Pennsylvania, 93 percent; New Mexico, 76 percent; Wisconsin, 66 percent; Minnesota, 89 percent; Iowa, 61 percent; Arkansas, 56 percent; West Virginia, 39 percent; Colorado, 36 percent; Virginia, 33 percent; Missouri, 22 percent and North Carolina, 9 percent.

And here's something to gladden the hearts of Democrats. Previous presidential voting results have established the rule that if an incumbent has less than 50 percent of the popular vote in any state right before the election, he will lose that state.

If the election were held on Oct. 25, Kerry would have destroyed Bush by taking 29 states and D.C. – 359 electoral votes to Bush's 179. Today, Bush is getting less than 49 percent in critical trio Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida, and he is also below the 50 percent mark in "battlegrounds" Michigan, Minnesota, Oregon, Colorado, Iowa, Arizona, Nevada, Arkansas, Wisconsin, West Virginia, Virginia and New Mexico. Bush is currently polling exactly 50 percent in North Carolina and Missouri (26 votes), so under the rule they should be considered "iffy."

Should Kerry win that 2-1 margin, Democrats are sure to retake the Senate and have a decent chance at winning the House as well.

More by Alan Waldman

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