Political Strategists Major in Math for Electoral College

By Lambro, Donald | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), July 28, 1996 | Go to article overview

Political Strategists Major in Math for Electoral College


Lambro, Donald, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


More troubling to Republicans than President Clinton's lead over Bob Dole in national polls is his advantage in pivotal presidential-election states that hold the key to victory.

An analysis of statewide polls and interviews with top political strategists shows Mr. Clinton well-positioned to capture the 270 electoral votes necessary to win a second term.

The race is by no means over, and a shift toward Mr. Dole in five crucial states could catapult him into the White House.

As they have in every close presidential election this century, the states of Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, Pennsylvania and New Jersey hold the key to victory. They alone account for 99 - more than one-third - of the 270 electoral votes required to win the presidency.

At the moment, Mr. Clinton is well ahead of Mr. Dole in Illinois, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Ohio is leaning toward Mr. Clinton and New Jersey is rated as a tossup. Mr. Clinton carried all five states in 1992.

Even worse for Mr. Dole, the president is also running competitively in many Southern states that the Dole camp had hoped would be well in hand by now.

Consequently, the Dole forces have been compelled to re-evaluate where to campaign. Mr. Dole returns to California today, his fifth trip there so far, and will stop in Arkansas and Tennessee on his way back to Washington.

"We're still looking to close the electoral lock this time, but we're not there yet," said Dole campaign adviser Frank Donatelli, a political director for former President Reagan.

"As the numbers begin to close, and Republicans tie down their base and win over Republican-leaning independents, more of these contested states will fall into our column, and we will begin to contest those key states that decide every presidential election," Mr. Donatelli said.

"There's no question that Dole will hold the South and the Mountain West, and we will have to add a couple of key battleground states in the Midwest to win," Mr. Donatelli said.

For now at least, neither Ross Perot nor former Colorado Gov. Richard Lamm, candidates for the Reform Party nomination, have shown sufficient strength in statewide polls to fundamentally alter the electoral picture for the president or Mr. Dole.

Charles Cook, a former campaign strategist for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, agrees. In an analysis in the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call, he noted that recent polls over the past few weeks have provided the first signs that Mr. Clinton's lead over Mr. Dole "is beginning to sag."

"This race is tightening up. It will probably tighten some more," says Les Francis, a veteran Democratic political adviser.

Mr. Francis notes, however, that Mr. Clinton's early electoral lead "is a far cry from six years ago, when everybody was talking about the Republican lock on the electoral college. That's been shattered."

A Gallup Poll of registered voters conducted at the end of June for CNN and USA Today showed Mr. …

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