ABC News' The Note: First Source for Political News

Norris, with a little help from his friends, put together a smashing Iowa caucus victory for Kerry and was promoted to national field director shortly thereafter. He is a former congressional candidate and former chief of staff to Governor Tom Vilsack.

Vilmain is one of the Democratic Party's best Midwestern battleground strategists, with experience in states like Wisconsin and Iowa and a resume that includes just about everything. She's been the party's principal general election strategist for the past several months. She helped Al Gore and Joe Lieberman win Wisconsin in 2000 as their state director, and she actually lives in the Badger State; she's been commuting to DC.

To help them, the Kerry campaign plans to direct several dozen staffers to Wisconsin and Iowa (and New Mexico) too. Regional press secretaries will also take up shop.

In fact, within the next week and a half, as many as ten states will see an influx of party resources. By the end of the week, Florida will have more than 140 full-time staffers from Kerry, DNC, and state party operations.

The Republicans are putting some extra folks in Colorado and Maine, the former, because they'll want a full GOTV program for all the races on the ticket, and in Maine, because BC04 is quite competitive there.

Various theories abound about Kerry's Iowa problem ("Voters do not like John Kerry" . . . "the farm economy is pretty good . . ." . . . "Kerry has visited Des Moines too many times" grouse Democratic strategists . . . ), but Democrats in and out of the state say there's no reason, given what they think is a superior combined ground game, that Kerry should not now at least be tied there.

In September, the Bush campaign outvisited the state and outspent the Kerry campaign on television.

Remember that Bush bracketed his convention week with Iowa visits, a great way to drum up free media. No matter, say donkey strategists: Kerry will close the gap. The campaign has upped the number of visits Kerry plans to make to the state between now and election day.

"When the elections are close, the Democrats win," says Gordon Fischer, the Iowa Democratic Party's chairman. "I think people feel confident without being cocky. the right track, wrong track numbers are just astounding here."

Why is Iowa, with 7 electoral votes, so important?

Assume the 2000 Electoral College tally in 2004 numbers, with the Census-adjusted state-by-state totals.

Bush has 278 votes to start with; Kerry has 260.

Assume Kerry loses Wisconsin — he has 250. Bush has 288.

Based on where Kerry is sending resources and spend advertising dollars (and knowing that the national map could still shift in either direction) — the following combinations of states get Kerry to 270 (or not), assuming New Mexico and Iowa stay Democratic.

(a) Kerry loses Wisconsin, wins Ohio and wins the election, 270 to 268.

(b) Kerry loses Wisconsin, wins Florida and wins the election: 277 to 261.

(c) Kerry loses Wisconsin, wins New Hampshire and West Virginia and no other Red states: he loses, 259 to 279.

(d) Kerry loses Wisconsin and Maine and Iowa and New Mexico (10 + 4 + 7 + 5) and picks up Ohio and Florida (20 + 27): Kerry wins 281 to 257.

(e) Kerry wins New Hampshire and West Virginia and no other Red states; he defends all his Blue states: It's a TIE: 269 to 269. Bush wins in Congress.

Now imagine this scenario:

What if Bush picks up Wisconsin, Iowa, and New Mexico?

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