US President George W Bush speaks about rural America in Wisconsin
Larry Downing  /  Reuters
President Bush makes a pitch to Wisconsin voters in Eau Claire on Wednesday.
By Tom Curry National affairs writer
msnbc.com
updated 10/22/2004 12:19:07 AM ET 2004-10-22T04:19:07

New poll data released Thursday suggest that President Bush is in a strong position to win one state that Al Gore carried in 2000, Iowa, and is putting pressure on Democratic candidate Sen. John Kerry in six other states Gore won, with Pennsylvania's 21 electoral votes the biggest prize of those six.

In Iowa, the new MSNBC/Knight Ridder poll shows Bush with a 49-43 percent lead over Kerry, with six percent of voters undecided.

Gore carried Iowa by 4,144 votes four years ago.

In New Mexico, which Gore carried by a mere 366 votes, Bush leads Kerry 49-44 percent with six percent undecided.

Meanwhile in Michigan, a state Gore won by more than 200,000 votes, Kerry and Bush are in a statistical tie, with Kerry at 47 percent, Bush at 46 percent and six percent undecided.

Neither candidate has made the state a personal priority in the last two weeks. The last time Kerry campaigned in Michigan was on Sept. 15; the last time Bush appeared there was Oct. 6.

When Mason-Dixon did its previous round of polling for MSNBC and Knight Ridder newspapers in Michigan in mid-September, Kerry stood at 47 percent, with Bush at 41 percent and 10 percent undecided. Bush has thus gained five points in about a month.

Video: Russert: Battleground state poll As of Oct. 8, according to the Michigan Campaign Finance Network, a nonpartisan research group, Kerry and his supporting groups had outspent Bush and his allies by one-third, $16 million to $12 million, for broadcast television advertising in Michigan.

Veteran Michigan analyst Bill Ballenger, the editor of Inside Michigan Politics, said, “The idea that Kerry has this wrapped up in Michigan is baloney. He personally has not spent much time campaigning in Michigan; he’s given it short shrift.”

As for the statistical tie in the poll data, Ballenger said, “I’m surprised, but I’m not sure I ought to be surprised.”

It would be exceedingly difficult for Kerry to win the presidency without carrying Michigan, which has 17 electoral votes and which not gone Republican in a presidential election since the elder George Bush won it in 1988.

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Bush a frequent Pennsylvania visitor
In Pennsylvania, which Gore carried by more than 200,000 votes, Kerry and Bush are also locked in a statistical tie, with Kerry at 46 percent, Bush at 45 percent. Eight percent said they were undecided.

Terry Madonna, Director of the Center for Politics and Public Affairs at Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, Pa., said he thinks Kerry will still manage to win Pennsylvania in the end.

“I think the last-minute Democratic push in the big cities probably gives Kerry a couple of percentage points. Bush needs a two- to three-percentage point lead going into the election” in order to win Pennsylvania, Madonna said.

The last GOP candidate to carry Pennsylvania was the elder Bush in 1988.

Bush campaigned in Downingtown, Philadelphia, and Hershey, Pa., on Thursday and will speak in Wilkes-Barre on Friday. Since becoming president, Bush has made 40 trips to Pennsylvania, more visits than to any other state.

That, Madonna noted, “is making Kerry spend a lot of time and money here in Pennsylvania. He’s playing on Kerry’s turf.”

One factor Madonna pointed to that may weigh in Kerry’s favor in Pennsylvania: a large number of newly registered college students “who seem to be more for Kerry than for Bush” and who strategically have chosen to vote in Pennsylvania, rather than in their home states of New York and Connecticut, states Kerry will likely win easily.

On Friday, Kerry will bring the battle to Bush turf by campaign in two states Bush carried in 2000, Nevada and Colorado.

In three other battleground states, Oregon, Wisconsin and Minnesota, Mason-Dixon polling also found statistical ties.

Mason-Dixon Polling & Research conducted the polls from Oct. 15 through Oct. 18. A total of 625 likely voters in each state were interviewed by telephone. The poll’s margin of error was plus or minus 4 percentage points.

Another new poll, by the Hubert Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota, also found a statistical tie in Wisconsin, with Bush at 48 percent, Kerry at 47 percent and Nader at 1.7 percent. That poll interviewed 623 likely voters and had a margin of error of four percentage points.

These findings make it all the more important for Kerry to hold Pennsylvania, where former President Clinton is scheduled to campaign with him Monday, and to try to take away at least one Bush state, such as Ohio or Florida.

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