How Bush Can Get Ballot Edge
  PHILADELPHIA

 On paper, Texas Gov. George W. Bush's march to
 the White House is clear, simple and seemingly inevitable.

 The road map was laid out with remarkable candor yesterday
 by his campaign director, Karl Rove:

 Bush can pretty much bank on all the Western states between the
 Sierra Nevada mountains and the Missouri River. He can count on
 the South, apart from perhaps Tennessee.

 In those two predictably Republican regions alone he will have well over
 200 of the 270 electoral votes he needs to win the presidency.

 Add other safe Republican states like Alaska and Indiana, and Bush
 needs just 44 more electoral votes to win the election, Rove says.

 Bush is more than competitive in Missouri (11 electoral votes), Washington (11),
 Ohio (21), Michigan (18), Pennsylvania (23), Iowa (7), Wisconsin (11),
 Vermont (3), New Hampshire (4) and Maine (4).
 
"We have a lot of opportunities to get the additional 44 votes," Rove said.
 Bush does not need California or New York to win the presidency.

 Like the map, the strategy is also clear. In the battleground states of the Midwest
 and Northeast, Bush will focus on swing voters: residents of older suburbs,
 industrial-state Catholics and Hispanics.

 Bush will stress five proven issues: reforming education, cutting taxes, saving
 Social Security and Medicare, rebuilding the military and further reforming welfare.

 He will pursue a rope-a-dope strategy toward Vice President Gore letting
 him go negative if he wants and then counterpunching. The goal is to exploit
 voter disgust with negative campaigning.

 There are some rough spots along this route. Bush, whose knowledge of many
 issues is suspect, must debate the experienced, aggressive Gore on television.
 "Our debate strategy can be summed up in one word," says Rove:  "Survive."

 Bush also must survive scrutiny of his record, which even supporters
 acknowledge is thin. Rove described him as a successful businessman, but for the
 most part Bush lost money and succeeded only with the help of wealthy friends.

 Supporters of McCain, who formally surrendered Sunday, may conduct guerrilla
 warfare against Bush, hoping he loses so McCain can run against Gore in 2004.

 Democrats are likely to get a bounce out of their own convention, which would make
 the national race even. And if Gore picks Kerry (D-Mass.), a Silver Star winner in
 Vietnam War, as his running mate, the Democratic ticket will consist of two Vietnam
 veterans running against two Republican hawks who managed to duck the war.

 In addition, while Bush seems genuine about his policy of compassionate
 conservatism, Rep. Tom Davis of Virginia, chairman of the Republican National
 Congressional Committee, says the slogan is his alone not the party's. Individual
 Republican congressional candidates feel no need to run as compassionate
 conservatives, Davis said.

 Bush is an enthusiastic, if occasionally tongue-tied, campaigner.
 If he can follow this script stick to his message, avoid mistakes and
 embarrassing photos, downplay his lack of experience and highlight his
 agenda the political map favors him.
 He could win it.

 Easily.
 
 

 Editor's Note:
 I think Bush's win is as inevitable as a Buffalo Super Bowl.
 

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