Ground Zero in the race for the White House may be shifting west to Illinois, Wisconsin, and Missouri, a new daily tracking poll shows.
As the poll shows the race tightening there, candidates have been lured to the region in search of last-minute converts. Green Party candidate Ralph Nader completed a full day of campaigning in Wisconsin yesterday, and Republican Gov. George W. Bush will stump there today. Democratic Vice President Gore spent most of a day there earlier this week.
Mr. Bush and Mr. Gore will campaign in Missouri and Illinois before the end of the week.
Ohio and Pennsylvania, which appear to be making firm decisions about who they will back on Nov. 7, will be ignored by the candidates in this last full week before Election Day, campaign schedules indicate.
The poll, commissioned by The Blade, MSNBC, and Reuters news service, shows Michigan, a critical state to the presidential hopes of Mr. Bush and Mr. Gore, is leaning more toward the Vice President.
The tracking poll of 606 respondents in each of 10 important states in the Nov. 7 election, conducted by Zogby International of Utica, N.Y., carries a margin of error of plus or minus 4 per cent. Interviews with likely voters were conducted Monday, Tuesday, and yesterday.
Of the 10 states in the poll, eight remain within the margin of error. In five states - Illinois, Wisconsin, Missouri, Tennessee, and Washington - the race is a pure toss-up; while three other states - Ohio, Florida, and Pennsylvania - are within the margin of error, but show significant signs of favoring one candidate or another.
Mr. Bush appears strong in Ohio, while Mr. Gore seems in control in Pennsylvania and Florida.
While the tentative electoral vote counts in the states in the poll remain unchanged, the race has altered a bit elsewhere. Political analysts say Oregon, Minnesota, and Iowa, once thought to be in the Gore category, are back in play. New Mexico, once thought to be captured by Mr. Bush, appears up for grabs. The four states have a total of 29 electoral votes.
While Mr. Gore appeared to have a slight edge in the electoral vote yesterday, the picture is more muddled today, as one-quarter of the states remain in play five days before the polls open.
In the latest Zogby national poll, Mr. Bush leads, 45 per cent to 42 per cent for Mr. Gore. Mr. Nader has 5 per cent support. Seven per cent are undecided.
The poll shows Mr. Gore continues to have a 46 per cent to 42 per cent advantage over Mr. Bush in Illinois. In Wisconsin, he wins 45 per cent support to Mr. Bush's 42 per cent, but Mr. Gore has dropped 5 per cent there at the same time that Mr. Bush surged 4 per cent.
In Missouri, Mr. Bush maintains a 46 per cent to 43 per cent edge on Mr. Gore. Both candidates return to the state today to campaign. Mr. Bush begins his day there, and will have moved on to Illinois and Wisconsin before Mr. Gore arrives from Texas and New Mexico. At stake are 11 electoral votes.
Wisconsin and Michigan showed the greatest swings in voter sentiment, according to the poll.
In Michigan, Mr. Gore picked up steam among independent voters and among men, this after campaign pledges not to take away the guns of sportsmen and hunters ran repeatedly on cable television news programs. Mr. Gore improved his standing 7 per cent among men and is now in a dead heat with Mr. Bush in that demographic category.
Overall in Michigan, Mr. Gore leads, 50 per cent to 41 per cent for Mr. Bush.
Among independent voters in Michigan, Mr. Gore gained 3 per cent at the same time that Mr. Bush lost 3 per cent, and Green Party candidate Ralph Nader lost 2 per cent, compared to yesterday's tracking poll results. Because Mr. Gore has gained the support of almost all Democrats, and Mr. Bush has gained similar backing by Republicans, the race in Michigan remains largely in the hands of those voters who consider themselves independent.
Mr. Gore also made a nice recovery among parents with school-age children in the state. He jumped 8 per cent in that category while Mr. Bush lost 7 per cent.
The poll shows it was a good day for another Michigan Democrat: challenger Debbie Stabenow now leads Republican U.S. Sen. Spencer Abraham, 48 per cent to 39 per cent. Mr. Abraham, long thought to be one of the nation's most vulnerable senators up for re-election this year, has lost significant support this week, the survey indicates.
Wisconsin heard some fiery rhetoric from Mr. Nader, as he condemned Mr. Gore and Mr. Bush before more than 5,000 supporters in front of the state capitol in Madison. While he remains at 5 per cent in the polls there, Mr. Bush has moved up to 42 per cent support, while Mr. Gore dropped 5 per cent to 45 per cent.
Mr. Gore suffered a significant loss of support among women, while Mr. Bush gained in the same category.
The contest in Illinois, once thought to be a lock for Mr. Gore, appears up for grabs, the poll shows. Mr. Gore has held steady at 46 per cent support, while Mr. Bush slowly has gained and now sits at 42 per cent.
In Ohio, Mr. Bush has continued to build his lead over Mr. Gore on the strength of growing support in the southern reaches of the state and among independent voters. He leads statewide by a 48 per cent to 40 per cent margin. The two men are tied among women, but Mr. Bush holds a 17 per cent lead among men.
In northwest Ohio, Mr. Bush leads by 10 points, 50 per cent to 40 per cent.
Pennsylvania continues to tilt toward Mr. Gore, who has increased his support by 7 per cent since Sunday. Mr. Bush's support there has decreased by 6 per cent in the same time span. Neither candidate has traveled through the state since last week.
In Florida, the race has tightened, as Mr. Bush stopped a steady decline and rebounded a bit, the poll shows. Mr. Gore still holds a 48 per cent to 41 per cent advantage.
Tennessee, Mr. Gore's home state, still tilts toward his opponent, but the race has tightened over the past week. The Vice President leads in Democratic areas of western Tennessee, but trails the Texas governor in more conservative eastern Tennessee, where he makes his home on a small farm in Carthage.
Mr. Gore retains a predictably strong lead in New York. Hillary Rodham Clinton has managed to close in on Republican Rick Lazio in the race for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who is retiring after a distinguished career.
Mr. Lazio receives 47 per cent support, compared to 45 per cent for the First Lady, the poll shows.