Jewish World Review Dec. 30, 2003 / 5 Teves, 5764

Jack Kelly

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Dean is big on campus — except in the one College that actually counts | Howard Dean has a strong following in just about every college in America... except the Electoral College. This bodes ill for his hopes of becoming president, should he be nominated by the Democrats.

Though the national popular vote in the last presidential election was the closest in history, there were only 18 states where the victor won by 6 percentage points or less. Of these, Bush won 9 states, which will have 99 electoral votes in 2004, and Vice President Gore won 9, which will have 92 electoral votes this year.

Five states - Florida, Iowa, Wisconsin, New Mexico and Oregon - were decided by less than a percentage point. Bush won Florida, which has 27 electoral votes this year. Gore won the other four, with a combined total of 29 electoral votes.

Bush is actually stronger than this analysis of the close states suggests, because Dean cannot be expected to do as well as Gore did in Gore's home state of Tennessee (Bush +4), or in Bill Clinton's home state of Arkansas (Bush +5).

If Tennessee and Arkansas are removed from the list of swing states, then Democrats in 2000 won a clear majority of the electoral vote in the states most likely to change their votes (92- 82). They are most unlikely to do so this year, especially if Dean is the Democratic nominee.

As a New Englander with pronounced left of center views, Dean would have had trouble enough in the South under normal circumstances. But he has made an uphill climb steeper by injudicious comments about Confederate flag bumper stickers on pickup trucks, and about talking about his faith in Jesus Christ only in the South.

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Dean appears to believe Southerners are redneck morons who ought to be patronized, and can be bamboozled. Southerners, understandably, resent this. Dean has, in effect, written off the South.

This is not a good thing to do. The 11 states of the old Confederacy, minus Florida (which no longer behaves like a Southern state) and including the border states of West Virginia, Kentucky and Oklahoma, have among them 146 electoral votes. When added to these are the electoral votes of Indiana (Bush +15) and the Western states Bush carried by 10 points or more in 2000, Bush begins with a base of 192 electoral votes, 71 percent of the 270 needed for election.

Dean's uncontested base, by contrast, consists of just 44 electoral votes. The larger the uncontested base, the more time and resources a candidate can devote to the swing states where the election will be won or lost. Gore did better in Florida and the Midwest because he was so far ahead in California, New York and New Jersey that he didn't need to make more than token efforts there.

Dean will not have that luxury. Though Dean likely will be able to carry California, New York, New Jersey and Illinois, Bush will be strong enough to make him fight for them, depriving Dean of time and money to spend in the swing states.

The election will be decided in eight states. Bush will fight to hold Florida, Ohio and Missouri, and to take Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. Bush currently leads - mostly by comfortable margins - in opinion polls in all of them.

The 2004 election will be fought on Dean's side of midfield, perhaps in his red zone.

Gore supporters blame the defeat of their man on votes siphoned off by Ralph Nader. Dean supporters say an advantage their man will have is that if he is the candidate, fewer leftists will stray.

It's true that Nader (who has said he will not be the Green Party's nominee again, but hasn't ruled out a run as an independent) cost Gore the election. But he affected the outcome in only two states. Nader got a trivial proportion of the vote in Florida, but because the race was so close, it was decisive. The only other state where the Nader vote gave Bush victory was New Hampshire. Gore won in every other state where Nader got a significant vote.

If Dean is relying on a united leftist vote to propel him to victory, he is relying on a phantom.

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JWR contributor Jack Kelly, a former Marine and Green Beret, was a deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force in the Reagan administration. Comment by clicking here.

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