||One of the nation's top political analysts, Stuart Rothenberg, dissects politics at the congressional and statewide levels.|
Stuart Rothenberg: The 2000 presidential election remains close
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The 2000 presidential election has been more than a single race. It's been a multi-part contest where first one candidate, then the other, seemed to have the race well in hand, only to lose the advantage.
First, Republican Texas Gov. George W. Bush looked like the winner over an ethically challenged Democratic Vice President Al Gore. Then, Gore resurrected himself, and Bush's campaign stumbled, staggered and almost collapsed under the weight of its own errors (including running mate Dick Cheney's slowness in dealing with his Halliburton options, the Republican National Committee's "Rats Ad," and Bush's verbal stumbles).
But just when it looked as if Gore's advantage on issues and the state of the economy would translate into his election, Bush came back with a roar. Suddenly Gore's embellishments and exaggerations came back to haunt him -- and to remind voters what they didn't like about the vice president.
Some polls, including CNN's own Gallup survey, have shown great volatility, with wild swings from one day to the next. That makes it hard to tell whether the race is really changing, or whether the polls are having a hard time measuring public sentiment.
In fact, there is ample evidence that something has been happening politically.
A number of surveys have shown movement toward Bush, though it may not have been as dramatic as CNN's poll found. Private state polls are also showing some movement, and the Gore campaign's more aggressive approach suggests that Democratic polling is also showing some movement away from the Democratic ticket.
Some observers have noted that while Bush appears to have gained ground in national surveys, he still lags in state polls. They have even suggested that this contradiction makes it possible that Bush could win the popular vote but lose the Electoral College to Gore.
In fact, state polls lag the national numbers since state polls are not conducted as often as national polls are. Private polling indicates that voters in key states have also changed their opinions recently, and that Bush is benefiting.
Gore's lead in Pennsylvania has all but disappeared, and Michigan now looks like a toss-up, possibly with an ever so slight advantage for Bush. Kentucky seems safely in Bush's camp, and Ohio is moving there. And normally Democratic states such as Minnesota, Wisconsin, Oregon, Washington, and West Virginia look to be in play. Even Tennessee is a dogfight. And states that seemed to be locked up for Gore just two weeks ago are coming back into play.
I'm not suggested that everything has been going in Bush's direction. Florida still seems to be a problem for the Republican nominee, and a recent public poll in North Carolina showed the race surprisingly close. The point is merely that state surveys are showing the same trend that has appeared in national surveys.
But there is no reason to believe that this trend is the last one of this election year. Voters have moved back and forth repeatedly, and they could do so again. Gallup's poll numbers suggest that Gore once again needs to improve his image, as well as undercut Bush's. The vice president may be able to do that during the last two debates.
Electoral College outlook: Al Gore (D) vs. George W. Bush (R)
Needed to elect: 270
Alabama (9 elec. votes)
North Dakota (3)
South Carolina (8)
South Dakota (3)
Safe/Likely Bush Total: 121
North Carolina (14)
Lean Bush Total: 54
Total Bush: 175
New Jersey (15)
New York (33)
Rhode Island (4)
Safe/Likely Gore Total: 146
Lean Gore Total: 47
Total Gore: 193
New Hampshire (4)
New Mexico (5)
West Virginia (5)
Total Toss-Up: 170