Mich., N.J., Ohio are key to Bush's electoral plan

November 02, 1992|By Knight-Ridder Newspapers

With one day left in the 1992 campaign, the electoral map shows the magnitude of the task facing President Bush if he is to stop Democrat Bill Clinton.

For Mr. Bush to win, he must take the 10 mostly small states now firmly in his grasp, capture another 11 where the race is a toss-up and add most of another dozen states that have been leaning to Mr. Clinton for months.

Included in that last category are the three major states on which the two leading candidates have showered nonstop attention: Ohio, Michigan and New Jersey. Mr. Bush needs them all, and then some, is he is to win.

Mr. Clinton, working from a large and secure base, needs only one of the three key states to be virtually certain of victory.

The Republicans' electoral strategy, as improbable as it may seem at this point, is based on the clear but rarely voiced assumption that Mr. Bush could lose the popular vote to Mr. Clinton and still win the presidency.

Under that scenario, which has no margin for error, Mr. Bush would register narrow victories in just enough states to amass the 270 electoral votes needed for victory, while Mr. Clinton builds up huge numbers of popular votes in states like California and New York.

"It is a possibility," Vince Breglio, a leading Republican pollster said yesterday on NBC's "Meet the Press" when asked about the prospect that Mr. Bush might get fewer votes than Mr. Clinton and still win. ". . . In order for George Bush to win, he's got to defy an awful lot of conventional wisdom."

At the moment, Mr. Clinton looks to be the overwhelming favorite in 18 jurisdictions with 236 electoral votes, only 34 short of the magic number.

His lead seems safe in Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and West Virginia.

So how can Mr. Bush win? His geographic scenario goes like this.

If the national contest is close, then 11 states with 114 electorate votes should fall his way, even though they now look like toss-ups.

In those states, most of which are in the South and the West, Mr. Bush has trailed most of the fall but not by huge margins. And all of them have voted Republican in the last three presidential elections. They are Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Kansas, Louisiana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, South Dakota and Texas, the state where the president himself votes.

That would get Mr. Bush to 183 electoral votes, still 87 short.

To get the rest of the way home, he would have to do extremely well in a dozen other states, all of which have Republican voting histories but all of which continue to show relatively big Clinton leads.

Those states, worth a total 119 electoral votes, are potentially the pivotal ones: Delaware, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, Ohio, Tennessee and Wisconsin.

Mr. Bush spent most of this weekend pursuing just one of those states, Wisconsin. And he has virtually lived in Ohio, Michigan and New Jersey for much of the last two weeks.

Republican strategists are relatively optimistic about Ohio, but the latest polls show the president trailing in Michigan and New Jersey. For Mr. Bush, a loss in either one would likely prove fatal.

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