Tags: Bush | Wins | 2004 | Squeaker | Analyst | Says

Bush Wins 2004 in a Squeaker, Analyst Says

Sunday, 29 June 2003 12:00 AM

The close results – based on polls and analysis by political analyst Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics – shows that Americans may see next year a deja vu of the 2000 election.

Sabato tells NewsMax that his electoral map analysis "represents just about the 'best case' scenario for Democrats: a poor economy and trouble on the national security front."

Sabato adds that the Democrats "max out around 300 electoral votes, with the likely total being lower (maybe quite a bit lower, under developing conditions)."

While the scenario of a Bush win is real and suggestive, Sabato warns that a switch in one state, such as Florida, could throw the election into the Democratic column.

Gazing into his "Crystal Ball," the political analyst and commentator projects, "Bush seems to have 231 solid electoral votes, and the Democrat appears to have 210 solid electoral votes.

"Adding in the leaning (hatched) electoral votes, Bush gets 47 and the Democrat 50. Remember that Bush has secured a bit of a boost from the 2000 Census; his 271 votes then now translate into 278 votes, assuming he carries again all his 2000 states."

The overall GOP margin is a thin 278-260.

White House and Republican strategists believe that the economy will only strengthen, increasing President Bush's chances.

Still, the numbers are worrisome. According to the Washington-based Cook Report, President Bush's "re-elect number" – the number of people who say they will vote for the incumbent no matter who the opponent is – stands at 42 percent. Bush's father had the same 42 percent in June of 1991, just over a year before the 1992 election he went on to lose.

Sabato, "probably the most quoted college professor in the land," according to the Wall Street Journal, predicates his Crystal Ball on what he sees as the perennial polarization of the "Red" and the "Blue." Social issues such as abortion, guns and gay rights have separated the states into Blue "Tolerant America" and Red "Traditional America."

The prolific professor says the polarization gives every sign of persisting:

"Is it possible that a strong economic recovery, among other factors, could produce a Bush reelection landslide in 2004? Yes, but such an event would not obliterate the Red and the Blue, merely override those tendencies for one election season. Similarly, a double-dip recession might enable the Democratic nominee to capture several Red states and the Presidency, yet the underlying split would persist."

And Sabato has also worked out candidate-specific maps for the leading Democratic contenders.

He reminds us to consider that his Crystal Ball has tried to find a plausible way for each one to win the Electoral College, irrespective of current polls and soundings.

"Not surprisingly, there is some change, yet what is truly astonishing is how little change we see from map to map, at least at this early juncture. And some of the changes are created with a bit of a stretch."

According to Sabato, Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., could carry Florida, as he almost did for Gore in 2000, at which point he can win the general election by 287 electoral votes to 258 for Bush.

But Sabato wonders if indeed Lieberman will be on the ticket, noting that for the first time in a long time, Lieberman is not favored in either of the first big contests (Iowa and New Hampshire), nor in the next significant one (South Carolina).

"Is it Lieberman's relative moderation on Iraq and a few other issues that holds him back?" asks Sabato rhetorically.

"Is it his Jewish faith? Is it his disorganized, late-starting (compared to others) campaign? Democrats seem to be having a hard time imagining Lieberman at the top of their ticket, and the Connecticut senator has a mountain to climb to change this critical perception."

Sabato's Crystal Ball forecasts that Sen. Bob Graham, D-Fla., could pull off the key Florida hat trick as well, achieving the very same electoral score.

Although the professor sees Graham as perhaps a little goofy with his daily diary fixation, he concedes that the veteran politician is "substantive, knowledgeable, and potentially well funded."

"And post-2000 Florida is not just another state, though several recent surveys have indicated that President Bush would defeat Graham in Florida come November 2004."

As to Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C., Sabato's Crystal Ball suggests that if he could carry his own state – a tough row to hoe considering his current unpopularity in North Carolina – then Edwards could eke out a 275 to 263 victory in the Electoral College.

"His weakness in North Carolina is palpable, where surveys show he might not be able to carry his own home state in November (shades of Al Gore).

"And fairly or not, Edwards sometimes comes across as shallow, quite possibly a product of his unusual – for a serious presidential candidate – absence of elective office experience. (First office: U.S. Senate, elected only four years ago.)"

If Rep. Dick Gephardt, D-Mo., is able to capture his home state of Missouri, despite never having stood for election on a statewide general election ballot there before, plus grab the union-rich state of West Virginia from Bush, he would squeak to a 276-to-262 electoral triumph, says the Crystal Ball.

Without West Virginia, Gephardt still wins by the Bush 2000 margin, 271 to 267, says Sabato, who doesn’t think this candidate offers a lot of excitement.

"The Missouri congressman has all the comfort of an old shoe, and lacks the luster of one, too. Gephardt has a great staff, good contacts, and money enough to compete, but he had better win Iowa handily, maybe as well or better than he did in 1988, or he's out."

As for Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., the only obvious electoral addition John Kerry could make for the Democrats would be New Hampshire, but Bush would still win, 274 to 264, forecasts the Crystal Ball.

"Kerry’s best bet for the margin of victory might be to ask Bill Clinton to spend the campaign's final month stumping in Arkansas, whose 6 electoral votes would produce exactly the 270 needed for a White House stay. For all of his protestations, Kerry is a classic Massachusetts liberal Democrat, with a record almost indistinguishable from Ted Kennedy. The main difference between Kerry and Dukakis, other than looks and dynamism, is a willingness to fight hard and fight back."

Whether looking at the race from the Bush versus any strong Democratic candidate or using the individual Democratic opponent scheme, Sabato admits that his Crystal Ball is just a tool and certainly not all-knowing.

"Who knows in June 2003 what conditions will prevail at the time of the election in November 2004? Thus, a healthy margin of victory for either party is well within the realm of the possible.

"We would argue, however, that the 2000 map is more than a good starting point for 2004 analysis. The 2000 state alignment is very likely to define the 'parameters of the possible' for George W. Bush and his Democratic opponent.

"Unless Bush is headed for one of those rare 40-to-49-state landslides due to a favorable alignment of all the stars and planets, it is difficult to see the president winning many more electoral votes than the sum of his solid/leaning states (278) and the blue-hatched states currently leaning Democratic (50).

"Bush's likely electoral ceiling, then, might well be 278 + 50 = 328. And for the Democrats, their ideal Electoral College outcome would be very unlikely to exceed 307 (260 votes in likely/leaning Democratic states plus 47 votes in hatched-red Republican states)."

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The close results - based on polls and analysis by political analyst Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics - shows that Americans may see next year a deja vu of the 2000 election. Sabato tells NewsMax that his electoral map analysis...
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Sunday, 29 June 2003 12:00 AM
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