Gore loses grip on states that should have been safe

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The Independent US

As if the latest national polls were not bad enough news for the Gore campaign, new state-level polls are, if anything, even more worrying. It is in the states that the tally of electoral college votes will be decided, and a number of states that the Gore camp believed to be theirs have moved almost unnoticed into the toss-up zone.

As if the latest national polls were not bad enough news for the Gore campaign, new state-level polls are, if anything, even more worrying. It is in the states that the tally of electoral college votes will be decided, and a number of states that the Gore camp believed to be theirs have moved almost unnoticed into the toss-up zone.

The most startling example is Illinois (21 electoral college votes out of 270 needed to win), home state of Mr Gore's campaign manager, William Daley, where Mr Gore had a double-digit advantage two weeks ago. The latest poll shows him three points ahead (46-43).

Next comes Pennsylvania,where Mr Gore had pulled into a strong lead. His opponent, George W Bush, has shrunk the gap to two points, again putting the state's 23 electoral college votes in contention.

The candidates are also neck and neck in such traditionally Democratic states as Wisconsin and Iowa in the Midwest and Washington and Oregon. Both states' main newspapers, the Seattle Times and the Oregonian, broke with their pro-Democrat stance of the last two elections and endorsed Mr Bush in editorials yesterday.

The tightening of the races, especially on the West coast, also brings the Green Party's candidate, Ralph Nader, into play again. He may not have succeeded in capturing more than 5 per cent of the vote nationally, but even 5 per cent in these states could hand victory to Mr Bush.

Perhaps the worst news for the Gore campaign comes from California, with most electoral college votes (54) and a state the Bush campaign had in effect ceded to Mr Gore. Even here the race appears to have tightened to the point where the most optimistic projections for Mr Gore show him nine points ahead, while others show the gap down to five.

Mr Gore has lost ground in all these states while failing to strengthen his position in Florida and Michigan, where he is still neck and neck with Mr Bush. Nor has he managed to cut into Mr Bush's narrow lead in Ohio (21 electoral college votes), where he lags a few points behind Mr Bush.

The new shift not only injects additional uncertainty into therace but also forces the Gore campaign to spend money and manpower in places it had not necessarily budgeted for.

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