Bob Novak writes
George W. Bush's re-election campaign has targeted two states in the upper Midwest -- Minnesota and Wisconsin -- as the most likely ''blue'' states carried by Al Gore in 2000 that could turn ''red'' in 2004.
President Bush's analysts are less optimistic about three big industrial states -- Pennsylvania, Illinois and Michigan -- going Republican. They are viewed by the Bush camp as trending Democratic.
The Bush camp is concerned about not only Florida but also Arizona and Nevada remaining red in '04 because of the increased Hispanic population in those states. For the same reason, New Mexico does not seem a good prospect for Bush, even though Gore won there in '00 with a virtual toss-up.
It's clear that Dems should be worried about Wisconsin
. In 2000:
Even adding all of Nader's supporters into the (D) column, we've still got a tight 52-48 split, not exactly a confortable margin. On the other hand, the Dems have regained the governorship since 2000. CW (and Rove himself) argues that the governor's party gets a 1-2 percent boost in presidential elections, thanks to the governor's bully pulpit and the ability to mobilize his or her machine for the election. In states like Massachusetts or Wyoming, the boost is irrelevent. In tight battleground states, it could make the difference.
Minnesota, on the other hand, would seem safer at first blush.
Nader skewed this race, but ultimately, Bush got an anemic 45 percent of the state. Still, the governorship is now in GOP hands, and the state has been trending (R) the past few elections. The strong influence of the state's Reform Party may be to blame, though, so it's hard to tell.
PA, MI, and IL are not going Red. Pennsylvania is clearly trending (D), has a dynamic new Democratic governor, and just got stabbed in the back on the steel tariffs issue. Michigan was a solid (D) in 2000 (51 Gore, 46 Bush, 2 Nader), and now boasts a popular Democratic governor. And the state's sizeable Muslim community, strong Bush supporters in 2000, is now clearly in the (D) column. Illinois is now as solid a (D) state as California.
It's telling that New Mexico is not on the list. Bush lost the state by about 1,000 votes, and logic dictates it will be hotly contested. But Novak is right, the state's growing Latino population should make it increasingly (D), and having captured the governorship also helps. It's important to note for the sake of NM, AZ, and even CA -- Bush has given Vicente Fox the big middle finger (Mexico would've voted against Bush's War on the UN Security Council), and that has played poorly amongst Mexican-Americans in the border states.
Iowa is missing from the list, interestingly. I would consider the state to be one of Bush's strongest pickup opportunities.
Though perhaps Iowa's legendary anti-war sentiment might put it more solidly in the (D) column in 2004.
As for Arizona, it's the big prize. The growth of the state's Latino population will help. But given its Western libertarian ethos, it's a state that both Dean and Clark should be able to take. In 2000:
Of course, Gore didn't contest Arizona. That will change in 2004, and we have also recaptured the governorship in the interim (our 2002 governor pickups will loom large in 2004). Both Dean and Clark are gun-friendly, eliminating a contentious issue in the state. I am willing to predict that the 2004 election will come down to Arizona.
We also have a strong pickup opportunity in Nevada.
Bush has angered many by his decision to turn Nevada into the nation's nuclear waste dump.
And the Dems may be able to ride the steel tariff betrayal and the outsourcing epidemic to electoral victory in West Virginia and possibly Ohio. I'm not too optimistic about Florida, which seems to be trending Republican, despite what Novak writes.
It's interesting looking at the map. The Gore states are -- except for NM, IA, WI and MN -- solidly Blue. I think the Republicans will have to play more defense to try and preserve their winning margin of 2000.