M A I N   N E W S

Bush, Kerry target key states in final hours
Ashish Sen writes from Washington

The race for the White House is down to its final hours. Or is it? A slew of tracking polls reveal the contest between President George W. Bush and his Democratic challenger Massachusetts Senator. John Kerry is too close to call, re-awakening memories of four years ago.

In 2000, the race between the then Texas Governor George W. Bush and Vice- President Al Gore ended in a disputed vote count and protracted court battle that produced a result disputed to this day in some circles.

The 2000 election underscored the importance of the Supreme Court. The stakes in the 2004 election were raised following last week’s disclosure that Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist is suffering from thyroid cancer.

Faced with an ailing and ageing Bench of justices, the next president is more than likely to appoint replacements that could determine the character of the country for years to come.

Both Mr Bush and Mr Kerry campaigned frantically on Sunday in Ohio and Florida, two key swing states. Analysts say the tight race in Ohio — which has 20 electoral college votes — may decide the outcome of this election. The victor in Ohio has won the White House in every vote since 1964 and no Republican has ever won without it.

The electoral college comprises electors from all states and the district of Columbia. Each state has a number of electors equal to the total of its US Senators — always two — and its House representatives, which are determined by the size of the state’s population. On election day, Americans vote for the electors, not the candidate.

There are 538 electors in the electoral college. In all but two states, Maine and Nebraska, the electoral college works on a winner-takes-all basis. The winner of the popular vote in a state gets all electoral college votes in that state.

The winning candidate does not need to win the national popular vote. In 2000, Mr Gore won the popular vote but lost the crucial electoral vote.

According to the Washington Post, Mr Bush has solid leads in 23 states with 197 electoral votes and is favored in four more, which could bring him to 227.

Mr Kerry is equally well- placed in 13 states with 178 electoral votes and is favored in five states, which would bring him to 232.

A candidate needs to win 270 electoral college votes to win the presidency. Besides Ohio, five other toss-up states — Florida, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and New Mexico — with 59 electoral votes could determine the winner.

The Washington Post’s latest tracking poll shows a deadlocked electorate, with Mr Bush at 48 per cent, Mr Kerry at 48 per cent and Independent Ralph Nader at 1 per cent, among likely voters. A Newsweek poll put Mr Bush up 50 to 44 per cent among likely voters.

In such a close election, both campaigns realise that the outcome hinges on one factor-turnout. Historically, a higher voter turnout has favoured the Democrats.

Campaigning for Mr Kerry in Albuquerque, New Mexico, yesterday, former President Bill Clinton alluded to incidents of Republican efforts to reduce voter turnout.

Speaking of a “Clinton law of politics,” he said: “If one candidate wants you to vote and one candidate wants you not to vote, you better vote for the candidate who wants you to vote!”

Mr Kerry’s running mate, North Carolina Senator, John Edwards, campaigned in Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio. Both Mr Edwards and Mr Bush’s running mate, Vice- President Dick Cheney, also focused their attention on Hawaii, a traditionally Democratic state, which some polls show leaning toward the Republicans.

Mr Bush told supporters: “If you believe America should fight the war on terror with all her might and lead with unwavering confidence, I ask you, come stand by me.

If you are a Democrat who believes your party has turned too far left in this year, I ask you, come stand with me.” The President said the outcome of this election “will set the direction of the war against terror.”

“Senator Kerry has chosen the path of weakness and inaction,” Mr Bush told supporters in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

In Dayton, Ohio, Mr Kerry stressed the need to “heal the wounds of this country, to be one America.”

Democrats found a reason to cheer on Sunday: The Green Bay Packers defeated the Washington Redskins in their football encounter. Over the past 17 presidential elections, the outcome of the Redskins’ final home game before the election has predicted the outcome of the election.

According to history, if the Redskins win, the incumbent President remains in office. If they lose, the challenger wins.

“This streak started with Herbert Hoover and will continue this week when George Bush, the only President since Hoover to lose jobs, loses his,” Mr Kerry said. “The Packers have done their part this Tuesday, We’ll do ours.”

Although the election day is November 2, a President’s term runs from January 20 until January 19 four years later. That means Mr Bush will remain in office for at least two-and-a-half months, no matter who wins.

HOME PAGE | Punjab | Haryana | Jammu & Kashmir | Himachal Pradesh | Regional Briefs | Nation | Opinions |
| Business | Sports | World | Mailbag | Chandigarh | Ludhiana | Delhi |
| Calendar | Weather | Archive | Subscribe | Suggestion | E-mail |