Bush targets states lost at last election

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The Independent US

Scenting a chance of putting the election beyond John Kerry's reach, the Bush campaign is focusing on battleground states narrowly won by Al Gore in 2000 and which the Democrat must carry this time to win the presidency.

Scenting a chance of putting the election beyond John Kerry's reach, the Bush campaign is focusing on battleground states narrowly won by Al Gore in 2000 and which the Democrat must carry this time to win the presidency.

This week, Mr Bush paid fresh visits to Minnesota and Wisconsin, where polls suggest he is running at least level with John Kerry. Between them, the two states provide 21 of the 270 electoral college votes needed to win, and the signs are that Mr Bush, in Wisconsin especially, is inching ahead. "This will be a tough, tough fight," Tad Devine, a top Kerry adviser, said.

The latest national polls are conflicting. A Gallup poll published yesterday gave the President an unprecedented 13 per cent lead among likely voters. But two other surveys, by Harris and the Pew Research Centre, showed a statistical dead heat between the candidates, suggesting that whatever bounce Mr Bush gained from the Republican convention has now evaporated.

At the state level, however, the initiative lies with the Bush/Cheney campaign. With the possible exception of Florida, the Democrats - right now at least - are hardly threatening the states that Mr Bush just won four years ago. Local polls suggest Missouri and Ohio, where Mr Kerry held leads earlier in the year, are now leaning towards the Republicans.

By contrast, Mr Bush's advisers are targeting several traditionally Democratic states. Apart from Wisconsin and Minnesota (the only state which voted Democrat in the Ronald Reagan landslide year of 1984), the Republicans reckon they have a good chance of capturing back the state of Pennsylvania which voted for Bill Clinton in 1992 and 1996, and for Mr Gore in 2000.

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