The Note

"In 18 states, the winner's margin was 6 percentage points or less, and at the start of the 2004 general election, at least 17 are seen as competitive battlegrounds, as the campaigns' initial advertising strategists suggest. The one exception is Tennessee, which cost Al Gore the presidency when it went for Bush. Without Gore on the ballot this year, the Republicans rate the favorite there." LINK

"Judging from interviews with strategists on both sides and with outside analysts, 10 of the closest states from four years ago are seen as the most competitive as the campaign begins. Bush and Gore split them five-five. The Bush states that may be most vulnerable to Democratic takeover are Florida, Ohio, Missouri, New Hampshire and Nevada, while the five Gore states eyed by the GOP are Pennsylvania, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin and New Mexico."

"The results of 2000 underscore the electoral parity between the parties in both the competitive and noncompetitive states. In the 32 states and the District that were decided by more than 6 percentage points, Republicans won 21 while Democrats captured 12. But when measured in electoral votes, the two parties' bases are more even: The GOP states account for 179 electoral votes while the Democratic states, including California and New York, total 168."

"Republicans express more optimism about their prospects in three other Midwestern states: Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa, where they hope cultural issues will trump economic issues."

"In Iowa, a year of Democratic campaigning has left Bush damaged. In Wisconsin, the Bush campaign is running ads from the southern reaches of Madison to the rural lakes and woods country of Rhinelander to undo the impact of job losses and the damage Bush sustained during the Democratic primaries. But Republicans connected to the Bush campaign say all three could tilt to the president in the fall."

Referencing "some political observers," the Palm Beach Post reports that Kerry "could abandon his campaign in [Florida] later this year — just as Bill Clinton did in 1992 — to spread his limited resources to potentially more fertile political turf in the Midwest and Southwest. After all, the closest election in 2000 was not in Florida, where President Bush defeated Al Gore by 537 votes, but in New Mexico, where Gore won by 366 votes." LINK

ABC News Vote 2004: "foreign leaders" for Kerry:

Sen. Kerry: Let us know when and if you call P-M-elect Zapatero … .

Everyone everywhere Noted Secretary Colin Powell's raised eyebrow on the Sunday shows yesterday.

"'I don't know what foreign leaders Senator Kerry is talking about … .It's an easy charge, an easy assertion to make. But if he feels it is that important an assertion to make, he ought to list some names. If he can't list names, then perhaps he should find something else to talk about."

Kerry was dogged elsewhere, per ABC News' Karen Travers:

Sen. Kerry's discussion in the tightly packed auditorium at Northampton Community College yesterday turned into a seven-minute volley between Senator Kerry and Cedric Brown, a 52-year-old registered Republican who owns a small sign business in the Lehigh Valley area.

Brown demanded to know more about Kerry's comments last week in Florida about his meetings with foreign leaders who said they supported his campaign and who he met and when.

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