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Friday, October 22, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.
By Michael Forsythe and Alex Tanzi
President Bush is poised to gain 2 million votes this year in the three most-populous U.S. states: California, Texas and New York. None of those ballots will help him win re-election.
With national polls showing a deadlocked race between Bush and Democratic nominee John Kerry, polls in individual states show Bush gains over his 2000 totals in some places he is already likely to win easily and in others where he is too far behind for his gains to matter.
Bush's surge of support in states that aren't in play in this election could even put him in the position of his 2000 opponent, former Vice President Al Gore: winning the nationwide popular vote while losing the Electoral College and the presidency.
The scenario of "Bush wins popular vote, loses Electoral College is very real," said John Zogby, president of Utica, N.Y.-based polling firm Zogby International.
States where Bush needs votes include Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, which advisers to the president and to Kerry, the four-term Massachusetts senator, agree will decide the election.
In 2000, Gore won the popular vote by 543,895 votes. This year, state polls by American Research Group and other firms show Bush cutting by half Gore's 26 percentage-point margin in New York and reducing by a quarter the 12-point advantage he had in California. Population growth in Texas, where the president is far ahead, means he is set to gain 450,000 votes there.
"Bush can't take the extra votes from Texas and apply them somewhere else," said Dick Bennett, president of Manchester, N.H.-based American Research Group, which has polled voters in all 50 states and Washington, D.C.
Bush chief political adviser Karl Rove aims to beat Kerry in Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, New Mexico and Michigan: all states where Gore won in 2000 and worth a total of 70 electoral votes.
Kerry is pursuing a mirror strategy, trying to hold on to the states carried by Gore while challenging the president in Florida, Ohio, Nevada and Colorado, all of which Bush won four years ago and where recent polls show the candidates in statistical dead heats.
An examination of state polls, population growth and forecasts of higher voter turnout suggests Bush may currently lead in the nationwide popular tally by 1.4 million votes.
Curtis Gans, director of the Committee for the Study of the American Electorate, estimates 12 million to 15 million more people will cast ballots above the 105.4 million who voted in 2000.
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