This year’s election is close, as close as the election in 2000. It could still tilt one way or another and produce a decisive, if close, election result at the end. Much of the media attention is focused on the so-called battleground states (where polls consistently show a close race) especially the big states, namely Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania. An analysis by Jeffery Simpson in the Saturday, September 4th edition of the Globe and Mail argues: “This is a national campaign in theory, but a much smaller campaign in practice. Only about a dozen states are up for grabs. Follow what's happening in those states, and you get a sense of who might win. Too complicated still? Then try this: Whichever candidate captures two or all three of Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida will be president.”
Generally Simpson’s column is an excellent summary of the race but he oversimplifies by zeroing in on Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida. In fact, Kerry could win by taking the Gore states plus Nevada (which becoming more like California and trending Democratic), New Hampshire (in Kerry’s Massachusetts back yard) and West Virginia (traditionally Democratic although not in 2000). This would give him a margin of 274-264 in the Electoral College. You can play this game yourself on the Electoral College Calculator at Dave Leip's excellent web site.
Bush could offset losing Ohio by winning Wisconsin and Minnesota (other battleground states which Gore won and where Kerry currently leads very narrowly) and take his other 2000 states to win.
I think it is impossible at this point to say which states will appear decisive after November 2nd.
Bush has come out of the Republican convention with apparently large leads in polls from Time and Newsweek. However, Josh Marshall reports that the internal polls of both the Bush and Kerry camps place the margin at 4%. In addition, Charlie Cook, one of the best opinion analysts in the game, wrote this on August 31st: “…I put great weight in the enormous levels of pessimism among undecided voters and their apparently low opinion of Bush. I think the president's climb is still a bit uphill. My experience tells me that undecided voters invariably break against well-known, well-defined incumbents.”
My intuition all year has been that Bush will win, but I can't ignore observations like Cook's, or the possibility of news from Iraq that could upset most of the calculations.