I wanted to pass on this passage from Charlie Cook's most recent 'Off to the Races' column in which he analyzes the state of the presidential campaign in various states ...
At this point, there remains 10 states that are too close to call: Florida with 27 electoral votes, Iowa (7), Minnesota (10), Missouri (11), Nevada (5), New Hampshire (4), New Mexico (5), Ohio (20), Pennsylvania (21) and Wisconsin (10). While too close to call, these states are not necessarily dead even. In Pennsylvania, President Bush, after holding a consistent lead over Kerry, finally slipped behind last month, but not far enough to warrant moving it into the "Lean Kerry" column. The same case exists in Florida, where a recent poll by a Republican firm for a private client put Kerry up by four points, but no one believes that the state is anything but a toss up. In Minnesota, New Hampshire and New Mexico, Kerry seems to be up by a bit, but again not quite enough to move those into the Kerry column. Bush is ahead in Missouri, but it's a close call as to whether the lead is big enough to justify moving it into the "Lean Bush" column.
In adding up all the electoral votes that are in the safe and lean columns for each candidate, President Bush has a tight 211 to 207 lead in the Electoral College. Bush also has 120 votes in the toss up column. However, if you pushed each of the 10 toss up states to Kerry -- who seems to be ahead by a slight margin -- he would come out on top.
Two points on this. <$Ad$>
These numbers seem somewhat different from ones you can find on sites like this one
that tally up all the different state-wide polls to give a read on where the electoral college numbers are. But I think it's worth noting that those tallies can be at least somewhat misleading for the following reason. Unlike people, all polls are not created equal. And when you get down to state-level polls the range of quality becomes much greater than it is at the national level. A veteran politics watcher like Cook can see through that smoke and take into account the poor quality in some polls and deeper trends at work in given states. For that reason, I put a lot of stock in Cook's opinion.
Still, he does seem to me to be understating Kerry's recent strength in Pennsylvania and Florida. In the case of Florida, what seems to have been a private GOP poll may have put Kerry up by 4 points. But the most recent independent poll, done by Quinnipiac, put him up by 7 points (6 with Nader added to the mix). And the poll before that, by ARG from the beginning of this month, also put Kerry up by 8 points (7 with Nader).
In fact, if you just go by the polls (which is not necessarily the best way to go) Florida is as solidly in the Kerry camp as Michigan -- and Cook doesn't put Michigan on his list of too-close-to-call states.
I agree with Cook to a degree. Some skepticism is warranted on the Florida numbers. One has to take the state's history into account, who the governor is, and what we might call the natural advantages the GOP has in the state, both legal and otherwise
. If Kerry really ends up winning Florida by 7 or 8 points, it'll mean that President Bush was defeated in a blow-out.
In any case, these aren't criticisms of Cook, just possible points of disagreement. I'm posting his analysis because I put a lot of stock in what he says. Those are just my two cents.