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Middle men

"Middle men" Continued...

Issue: "Midwest's middle men," Oct. 21, 2000

Wisconsin: Political pundits are amazed that this state's 11 electoral votes are even in doubt. Wisconsin is such a reliably Democratic state that it actually voted for Michael Dukakis in 1988 (almost no one else did). Milwaukee and Madison, home of the notoriously liberal University of Wisconsin, turn out hordes of Democratic voters every Election Day. But the Fox Valley, running from Green Bay to Oshkosh, is heavily Catholic and working-class and may turn out enough Republicans to swing the state to Mr. Bush. Four-term Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson is working hard for his Texas colleague, but Mr. Gore is saturating the airwaves: From June 1 through mid-September, more pro-Gore ads aired in the Green Bay TV market than anywhere else in the country. A poll taken before the first debate shows Mr. Gore up by 5 points, but Gov. Thompson says independent polls have the candidates tied at 41 percent each.

Michigan: Perhaps the hardest-fought of all the Midwestern states, Michigan's 18 electoral votes could well make the difference on Nov. 7. Both sides have the state in their must-win column, and, with polls showing the race tied, either side could triumph. Some union members are still angry with the Clinton administration's support for NAFTA, which they see as draining manufacturing jobs out of heavily unionized states like Michigan. And Mr. Bush has tapped into a latent fear of his rival's environmental policies that could threaten the auto industry. Still, union leaders have vowed a massive get-out-the-vote effort, and Mr. Bush may be hard-pressed to match their numbers in the western part of the state, a traditionally Republican enclave. Gov. John Engler is an enthusiastic Bush supporter, but his machine proved ineffective in the primary, when John McCain scored an upset win. As in Wisconsin, Ralph Nader could steal just enough Gore voters to allow Mr. Bush to slip by with a narrow win.

Ohio: The biggest prize among the up-for-grabs Midwestern states also happens to be the most reliably Republican. While Mr. Gore surged in nationwide polls following the Democratic National Convention, he never gained on Mr. Bush in Ohio. Good thing, too: No Republican has ever been elected president without winning the state, currently worth 21 electoral votes. Still, the race is close, with 48 percent favoring Mr. Bush to 43 percent for Mr. Gore, and a late surge of Democratic union support could turn things around quickly. That will keep both candidates coming back to Ohio for frequent visits between now and Election Day.

If Mr. Bush is tempted to take Ohio's 21 electoral votes for granted, he'd do well to remember the example of Gerald Ford. In 1976, the incumbent president lost the state by just 11,000 votes out of 4 million cast. A win in Ohio combined with three electoral votes from tiny Delaware would have kept Jimmy Carter out of the White House.

Note to the Bush campaign: Better not spend all your time in the Midwest. Delaware is still a toss-up.


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