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ALL THE Right MOVES.

THE RULES: EACH STATE IS ASSIGNED A NUMBER OF VOTES. THE OBJECT: WIN ENOUGH STATES TO COLLECT 270 VOTES.

The Electoral College doesn't offer degrees or field a single sports team. It has a more important mission: electing the President of the United States. Under the Constitution, the candidate with the most electoral votes--not popular votes--wins. Each state has the same number of electoral votes as it does members of Congress, and in 48 states the winner of the popular vote gets all of the state's electoral votes. (Maine and Nebraska assign electoral votes by congressional district.) It takes a majority of the 538 electoral votes--at least 270--to win.

To give you an idea of how the states compare in electoral power, we've redrawn the map of the United States, sizing each state according to its electoral votes. The more votes, the larger the state. It is this view of the nation that shapes the candidates' election strategies.

UPFRONT asked three experts--CNN political analyst Bill Schneider, University of Virginia professor Larry Sabato, and senior analyst Hal Bruno of Politics.corn--to handicap the electoral prospects of Bush and Gore. Here's the outlook.

Rocky Mountains and Plains

GOP STRONGHOLD: A Bush sweep. "They don't like the federal government out there," says Schneider. "There's a deep, long-standing resentment of Washington and all its rules and regulations."

Northwest

INDEPENDENCE DAY: Oregon is a toss-up, but Gore leads in Washington. Both states have a lot of well-educated independent voters who are concerned about the environment and other social issues. Nader is strong in Oregon, which hurts Gore.

California

THE GOLDEN JACKPOT: Despite his criticism of Hollywood's values, Gore is expected to win this largest electoral prize. Some of his pet issues, like high-tech jobs and the environment, are very popular with voters here. So is his pro-choice stance on abortion. Green Party candidate Ralph Nader will take away some liberal votes, but he seems to be losing steam as the election draws closer. "I don't think Nader will make a difference in California," says Bruno. Bush may lose Hispanic votes because of the lingering legacy of former Republican Gov. Pete Wilson, whose anti-immigration policies angered Mexican-Americans. "Wilson poisoned that group for Republicans," says Bruno.

Southwest

BUSH COUNTRY: Texas is a no-brainer for its second-term Governor. But Bush is also running strongly in neighboring Arizona and Oklahoma, and holds a slim lead in Nevada. New Mexico is a toss-up.

Midwest

DECISIVE BATTLEGROUND: The election could be decided here. Gore is ahead in Illinois and Bush leads in Ohio, but Michigan, Wisconsin, and Missouri are up for grabs. "Historically, Illinois, Ohio, and Missouri are the best bellwethers in a presidential election," says Bruno. "In the last 100 years, they've only been wrong twice."

Northeast

DEMOCRATIC BASE: This is Gore's strongest region. He has a firm grip on New York, which trails only California in electoral votes, and leads in two other big states, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, where independent suburban voters are crucial. "The independents are going for Gore," Sabato says. "These families have done particularly well the last few years, and they're going to vote for that prosperity."

South

DIXIE DOMINATION: No Democrat has carried the South since Jimmy Carter in 1976, and nobody expects the trend to end this year. Bush leads everywhere except in Arkansas and Kentucky, which are close, and in Gore's home state of Tennessee, which the Vice President should win. Bush's pro-military and anti-abortion positions are popular in this socially conservative region.

Florida

SUNSHINE STATE SHOWDOWN: Once considered a lock for Bush, the state is now up for grabs. Gore's emphasis on protecting Social Security and Medicare and his plan to pay for prescription drugs are popular with the large elderly population. Having Joe Lieberman as a running mate also is a plus in the heavily Jewish Miami area. Bush will do better with conservative Cuban-Americans and should get a boost from his brother Jeb, who is the state's Governor. But family connections may not be enough. "Bush cannot possibly win without Florida," says Sabato. "If he loses there, the election is over."
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Article Details
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Author:WARNER, RICK
Publication:New York Times Upfront
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 16, 2000
Words:682
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