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Last Updated: Thursday, 14 October, 2004, 03:01 GMT 04:01 UK
Blogging the US election - I
Kevin Anderson
BBC News Online's Kevin Anderson is keeping a weblog as the US prepares to go to the polls on 2 November.

He'll be recording his thoughts and observations - both serious and not so serious - as well as finding answers to your questions.

13 October


On the connecting flight between Atlanta and Phoenix I struck up a conversation with Jerry Floyd from Acworth, Georgia.

When we first starting talking about politics, it wasn't about the issues that dominate the presidential race - healthcare, the economy or the war on terror.

The conversation was about local issues - sewers, schools and congestion.

He lives in the sprawling Atlanta metropolitan area, and the region has experienced rapid growth over the last two decades.

Like many American cities, it suffers from growing pains, and the political issues that first come to mind for him are pressing local needs.

He considers himself a pretty typical suburban American.

His congressional district is heavily Republican, but he said on local issues, the party distinctions aren't as important.

On the national level in the presidential race, I asked him what the most important was for him, and he said terrorism.

The father-of-three worries not as much about an act of mega-terrorism like the 11 September 2001 attacks, but more about a strike against a school, similar to the recent catastrophic attack in Beslan in Russia in which 330 people were killed, half of them children.

That would be shocking beyond understanding, he said.

He has his worries about the war in Iraq and isn't as convinced now as when the war started that Iraq is part of the war on terror.

But he thinks President Bush is still the best man for job of combating terrorism, and he worries about changing leaders at such a dangerous time.

"How long would it take John Kerry to get set up?" he asked.

He thinks the war on terror is going to be a long-term struggle for the United States.

"There is always going to be terrorism long-term," he said, and it's much more difficult to fight a shadowy network of terrorists than against defined enemies in past wars.

"In World War II, you had a defined enemy. We are on this side of the fence, and you are on that side of the fence," he said.

Now, this is a global war, he said.

"Iraq is just the name plate that we're titling it right now," he added.

When I asked him who he was going to vote for, he paused, and said: "I'm leaning towards voting for President Bush."

No matter who wins, he has faith in the US system of government with its checks and balances and says Congress and the courts will put limits on what the next president will be able to do.


I'm up before dawn to fly to Phoenix to cover the third and final debate.

I was the first fare of one of Washington's many Eritrean and Ethiopian taxi drivers.

Planes at Reagan National Airport in the early morning
Reagan National Airport at dawn means I'm back on the road again
He said that there are some 5,000-6,000 Eritreans and about 200,000 Ethiopians in the Washington area.

His still steaming cup of convenience store coffee was enough to wake me, but he still caught me yawning and struggling to jump-start my sleepy self.

I told him that I had been working hard and wouldn't get any sleep until after the elections, and, after I told him I was a journalist, he asked: "So, you're going to Phoenix?"

He has been following the debates closely.

He's been in the United States for a while, and he's voted since Ronald Reagan's second term.

He doesn't consider himself a Republican or a Democrat, although he said that some of the Republicans' issues appealed to him.

He supported Republican efforts to reform welfare.

Welfare undermined Americans' efforts to better themselves, he thought, and then told me a classic American immigrant's story.

"I worked two jobs, and 18, 19 years ago, I bought my own townhouse in Springfield, Virginia," he told me.

He told proudly of how his oldest daughter had just graduated from university and how he had recently driven her to New York for a job interview.

"My daughters, they will live better than me," he said, in a quick summation of the American dream.

And, like Republicans, he opposes same-sex marriage. "My grandfather was an Orthodox Christian priest," he said.

But, those aren't the issues that are motivating him in this election. He is concerned about the war in Iraq.

"Bush is bullying," he said, and although he is watching the debates closely, he's not an undecided voter. John Kerry is his man.

And his prediction for tonight? "It will be close, like the last one," he said.

12 October


OK, your mission should you choose to accept is to find the most confusing, tortured political statements regardless of party affiliation.

This is a totally bi-partisan issue. Both candidates and both parties are guilty of them.

I'm not talking about things that you don't agree with. In this partisan atmosphere, you would overwhelm us with those types of statements.

George Bush at rally in Colorado
Mr Bush: Taxing the rich is stupid. Their lawyers get them out of it.
No, no, I'm talking about things that flat out just don't make sense, and politicians all over the world are guilty of that.

It doesn't matter if they're liberal, conservative, socialist or libertarian, politicians push language to the breaking point. Come on, this will be fun.

John Kerry has a tendency to go down a few rhetorical cul de sacs when he goes off script, and President Bush has books of "Bushisms".

The Bush camp has gained a lot of traction by replaying John Kerry's "I voted for the $87bn before I voted against it."

That refers to an $87bn package of spending for continued military and rebuilding operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.

That makes no sense whatsoever, and John Kerry admitted as much in the first debate.

But the new one that has me scratching my head comes from the Bush camp.

Let me quote liberally from his recent speech in New Mexico, so no one can accuse me of quoting the president out of context:

"See, [John Kerry is] saying, oh, don't worry, I can pay for all my programmes by taxing the rich. We've heard that before, haven't we? Yes, you know how it works. First of all, as I told you, he doesn't have enough money to pay for all his programs. There's a tax gap, and guess who usually gets stuck filling the hole - yes, you do."

OK, that's pretty standard Republican fare.

And both candidates could fairly criticise the other for not having the money to pay for their proposals.

As Gloria of Missouri, a life-long Republican wrote in to the blog: "My thinking of President Bush is that he is not what I call a Republican when in more than three years, he has ruined the value of our dollar by his lavish spending habits and produced a three trillion dollar-plus debt."

Neither candidate with what they have on the table now has any way of paying down the deficit unless the US government gets into the online porn business.

But it is Mr Bush's following line that I'm confused by.

"Something else about taxing the rich - the rich hire lawyers and accountants for a reason, to dodge the tax bill and stick you with it. We're not going to let him do it to you. We're going to win in November."

Jon Stewart on the Daily Show said of that line: "Let me get this straight. Don't tax the rich because they'll get out of it. So, your policy is, tax the hard working people because they're dumb a**es, and they'll never figure it out. Vote for me, good night?"

And this wasn't a Bush-ism, one of his favourite malapropisms.

He said it in Pennsylvania a week ago and in New Mexico this week so this is actually supposed to be a laugh line in the new stump speech.

He paid some speech writer to come up with this.

So, there you have it. You get the idea. Accept the BBC blog challenge.


For months, people have been asking me who I thought would win.

I have tried to avoid making any predictions because I thought it would come down to things that neither candidate could control: The economy and Iraq.

I also tried to avoid predictions because the race was tight, has remained tight and the tracking polls show the lead changing every day.

There are issues with tracking polls.

Electoral College Map
Polls show the Electoral College race neck-and-neck
As a matter of fact, we saw problems with the polls in the caucuses in Iowa and the primary in New Hampshire with respect to predicting the outcome.

In some cases, people got so tired of being called that they would tell the pollsters anything just to get them off the phone, and it didn't really reflect what they thought about the race. But, let's leave polling to another day.

But, we have seen the race tighten since the debates began. The national polls show only a point or two between the two candidates, but that doesn't tell the whole story.

Remember, Al Gore won the popular vote but lost in the all-important Electoral College.

The president is not elected directly. Each state has a number of electoral votes based on its population and hence its representation in the US Congress.

The most populous state, California, has 55 votes, while many less populated states, like Montana and Wyoming, have only three Electoral College votes.

Win in a state, and the winner takes all of the Electoral College votes, except for Maine and Nebraska which allow congressional district voters to determine its own Electoral College vote.

Oh, and Colorado voters are considering a proportional distribution system on the ballot. More on that later.

We'll have plenty of time to discuss this. Maybe we'll even be discussing this well into December as another American election is decided in the courts.

But a candidate needs to win 270 votes to win.

Look at state polls and the Electoral College tally to keep tabs on the real state of the race. I've bookmarked Electoral-vote.com.

Immediately after the debate in Miami, before it was taken into account by the polls, President Bush held a commanding 331 to 200 lead over John Kerry in the College.

Yesterday, Mr Bush's lead had evaporated, and Mr Kerry had a 270 to 248 lead. Some state polls are deadlocked.

Today, Mr Bush is back on top with 274 votes to Mr Kerry's 260. The key shift has been in Ohio, which went from Kerry a point ahead to Mr Bush with a five-point lead.

The polls in a swath of key swing states in the Midwest have been sliding around on a daily basis.

This is going to go down to the wire once again, and in Washington, we're bracing for another uncertain result.

We've already had some comments about the Electoral College, mostly against. Any pro-College people out there care to take a stab at defending it?

Read more:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.

11 October


When we were on the road trip, many of you asked whether Americans were engaged in strategic voting.

Last week at the presidential debate in St Louis, Missouri, I found some students at Washington University who had decided to register in that key swing state rather than in their home states that aren't in play.

Washington University students
Republicans and Democrats are working hard to register students
Ben Jackson is an international studies and economics student from Long Island New York, a solidly Democratic state where John Kerry has a double-digit lead.

This election the Democrat supporter will vote in Missouri.

Ben and his friends said both the college Republican and Democratic parties were encouraging students to register in Missouri because of its strategic importance.

Fellow student Maggie Clay is a Democrat from Virginia.

"It's always going to be a Republican state, so my vote will count here (in Missouri)," she said.

Polls show President Bush with a slim lead in Missouri.

Akshay Iyengar is a biology major and a Kerry supporter from Indiana, and the most recent poll in Akshay's home state shows Mr Bush leading John Kerry, 58%-39%.

"I don't know how much my vote will count (in Missouri), but I will have more of a chance of my voting counting here than in Indiana," he said.


Well, I'm going to have to tear myself away from playing with Comedy Central's online Scandal Generator.

Comedy Central's Scandal Generator
Destroy your political opponents just like the pros do
I was just enjoying one of our favourite pastimes here in Washington: Destroying my political enemies.

But who needs Karl "Bush's Brain" Rove or John Kerry super-adviser Bob Shrum? They cost way too much and are too likely to clash with other members of my staff.

I did it auto-magically by plugging their names into the Scandal Generator.

Now, I'm off to spread the salacious lies about them to my choice circle of opinion makers, I say, laughing ominously.

Yeah, right. You should have known it was pure satire when I referred to my "staff". I am an army of one.

And more to the point, I'm not that far up the Washington politico-media food chain to have any political enemies much less some shadowy cabal of spin meisters, although I'd like the latter for Christmas.

But as the game says, "show a friend you care by dragging their good name through the dirt."

I was just using the Scandal Generator to place my close friend and the left fullback on my soccer team at the centre of a scandal where he was discovered in a seedy motel with several alleged prostitutes "wearing nothing but argyle socks".

Thankfully, no friends or political opponents were harmed in the writing of this blog entry.

One can't say the same thing about the reputations of some of public servants here in the United States.

Do you think the quality of candidates for the top job in the US is harmed by viciousness of the campaigns?

Or do you believe that it toughens up a candidate and as has been famously said that "politics is a contact sport"?

Read more: [External websites]

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.


After blogging the US political conventions and a two-week road trip across the US to talk to voters, my bosses at the BBC have decided to have me blog all the way through Election Day here in the United States.

Unlike the blog during the recent road trip when we travelled to five states in two weeks, I'm going to be at my desk here in Washington for much of the duration.

Independent candidate Ralph Nader
Supporters of Ralph Nader, why are you casting your vote for him?
But the thing that I like about the blogs we've done is the conversation that starts.

Through the magic of the internet, I'll be able to find out what's going on out there from you in the battleground states and those states comfortably in the Bush or Kerry column.

Who has the momentum in your state? What do you think of the debates? What do you think of the ad wars?

What do you think of the so-called 527s, such as anti-Bush MoveOn.org and the anti-Kerry Swift Boat Veterans for Truth?

I know you Ralph Nader or Green Party or Libertarian Party supporters out there are screaming: "What about us?"

Well, we can talk about your issues too. Why are you going to cast your vote for a third-party candidate this year when your man doesn't stand a realistic chance of winning?

What about you undecided voters out there? What's keeping you on the fence? How are you weighing your final decision?

Non-voters - and there are a lot of you out there - why aren't you voting?

Lots of people told us on the road that this is the most important election of their lives. There's a war (or wars) going on, so what's keeping you away from the polls?

Electronic voting machines. Many looked to the magic of technology to prevent a repeat of the "hanging chad" debacle in Florida from four years ago.

But what a row these things have set off!

Votematic voting booth
Do you think that electronic voting machines will solve or create problems?
People want paper records of their votes. Others see security issues and Republican conspiracies (more on that later). What do you see?

I'll also be dipping in and out of the "blogosphere", to see what some of the best political bloggers are saying about the elections.

I'll keep tabs on the MSM (Main Stream Media), the slightly dismissive label used by bloggers to refer to the press and cable and broadcast TV news.

The MSM has been even more dismissive of the bloggers.

What do you think about the blogging phenomenon? Modern day Tom Paines or just royal pains who do more to feed rumours and distract from the issues?

What do you think of the MSM? We heard a lot of criticism of the media when we were on the road. What's wrong? What do you think needs to be changed?

I'll also be looking at the not-so-MSM media. Many young people get their political news from late-night comedy shows like cable's "The Daily Show".

I'll do a sampling of the best jokes, the best comments and the best political games online and on air.

Oh, and send me your digital pics of the best bumper stickers and political signs you see, and we'll post some here.

And for everyone outside of the United States, here is the chance to register your opinions and ask your questions.

Ask me questions, and between myself and the other correspondents here in Washington, we'll try to get you some answers.

It's three weeks until election, and I'm going to blog until I drop. Get out your digital cameras, clean off your keyboards and let the blog begin.

Let's just hope for everyone's sake that this election ends on 3 November and not next January!

Kevin, the electoral college system makes perfect sense when you understand why it was devised and designed the way it is. The USA enjoys a democratically elected republic. The system combines, or tries to combine, the best of a pure democratically elected majority with a representative republic.
Tom C, Annapolis, MD, USA

I am not in favour of getting rid of the electoral college at this time. I believe the intent of this system was to give the rural states (where most our food comes from) a little extra say into picking our executive branch. In comparison to their importance in filling our bellies they have few representatives to vote in the House of Reps. It's far from perfect, but I have not heard of a better system.
Gerald Malott, Miamisburg, Ohio, USA

Kevin, great blog, and great questions too. I am a Democrat and Maryland will definitely go to Kerry, so I only wish that I attended university in Ohio or Florida so that I could register and vote there. I personally am bothered by the lack of real in-depth coverage on MSM. So I would say that I stay up to date politically by listening to NPR and by being a loyal fan of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, which I rush home from class to watch every night. Good luck with blogging till you drop!
Camille Boostrom, Bethesda, Maryland

Although a left-leaning Democrat by American standards, I'm very likely to vote for Bush in the upcoming election. He's done such a superbly dreadful job in the last four years that I can't help but think that another term and he'll guarantee Democratic leadership for the next quarter-century. He's actually made one somewhat nostalgic for the Nixon administration. Just think, after another round of Bush, we might just elect Mrs Clinton.
CKR O'Shaughnessey, Bedford, Virginia, USA

Out of the millions of people who were allegedly disenfranchised in America in 2000, how come not one single person has come forward to complain? Simply because it never happened. Name one person, just one!
Chris Mulvanny, Dallas, Texas, USA

There doesn't seem much doubt that it's going to be another close one and it looks like the genuine undecideds will be the ones to swing the result. However it seems odd to me that an incumbent president needs to be relying on such small numbers to get re-elected. Bush has had four years to convert his "electoral college" majority win into an undisputed electoral win.
Gerry Madden, Chichester, UK

What's the bottom line on this election? There are so many issues, but to me the telling one is: What is the president's primary duty? One answer is: To defend the American people. On Sept 11th 2001, the government failed in this. Where does the buck stop?
Francis B Banks, Nassau, Bahamas

To all the people who say "we're voting third party to make sure our leaders know they haven't impressed us, and they have to earn our vote," come on, be realistic. Third party votes comprise, what, maybe 10 percent of the overall vote? There's no possible chance for a third-party candidate in the presidency, and no reason for leaders to adopt their platform planks to get meagre percentage points that won't affect the race in any way, shape or form.
Patrick Varine, Georgetown, DE, USA

I sent my ballot request on September 2 and still don't have one. Will go to the US Federal write-in ballot if I must. But this is surely not right! I am sure my case is not unique, and that it does matter.
Christine Jackson Counelis, Athens, Greece

My son, a Marine, is spending his second tour in Iraq in Ramadi. He works 24 hours on and six hours off for days at a time. He is shot at almost daily, returns fire almost daily, and has seen members of his company killed. He and his comrades are deeply frustrated that they aren't accomplishing anything. My son has five and a half more months, I wonder whether he and his company can maintain the pace set for them by the lack of trained troops and the present administration.
Mary Geddry, Coquille, OR, USA

Bumper Sticker recently seen: 'Nine out of 10 terrorists say Anyone But Bush'.
Anna Keay, Denver, Colorado, USA

Rhode Island has been assumed one for the Democrats, maybe from the beginning of time! So there have been no presidential political ads. Imagine that. We are blessed indeed.
Tim Wholey, Narragansett, RI, USA

I am an American living in Germany. I am a registered voter in Washington State. This year I am not voting. I realise how important my vote would be but because of all the hoops I would have to jump through just to vote, I would rather stay home and watch the outcome.
Victoria, Clasper, Germany

The electoral college exists to level the playing field between populous states and non-populous states. If it did not exist, candidates would focus most, if not all of their efforts in cities and areas with the highest population density, bypassing areas with the lowest. States with the lowest populations would be virtually ignored when campaigning and dismissed during the making of policy, as their populations are too miniscule to affect the outcome of a national election on a vote by vote basis (Montana, Idaho and Alaska are good examples).
Mitch, Chicago, IL

I appreciate those civic minded people out there doing whatever they can to encourage people to get out there and vote. I am definitely sided with Kerry and hope people agree that giving the president another four years to get it right seems ridiculous. I've never had a job that I could botch up for anywhere near four months, let alone four years. It's time to give someone else a shot at stabilising our economy and helping us rejoin the rest of the world.
Kathi, Gainesville, Fl, USA

I'd like to respond to your question about why I would vote for Libertarian candidate Badnarik, when he has little chance of winning. As with most Libertarians, including Mr Badnarik himself, I realise that there is no chance of a Libertarian victory. However, voting for the Libertarian Party puts pressure on the major parties to adopt planks of the Libertarian platform. Both parties need to know that they have to compete for my vote, and if neither of them meet my needs, I will vote elsewhere.
Eric Greenwood, Rochester, NY, USA

What can be done at this late date to secure our voting process for this election? I'm hearing so much about how corrupt, and easily compromised, our election system really is. There is no election standardisation, state to state, and no secure USA ID system in place. I learned last evening that eight of the 9/11 men, "terrorists" as they are called, who flew jets into our buildings could have voted legally in the US presidential election. I would like to get rid of our Electoral College and to see one vote for each citizen.
Patricia White Watson, NYC, USA

In response to your question: "Why are you going to cast your vote for a third-party candidate this year when your man doesn't stand a realistic chance of winning?" I can only say, I wish not to perpetuate scandal, but simply to vote for the candidate I find willing and able to relieve the problems of this troubled nation.
NK, East Lansing, MI, USA

I am a card carrying life long Republican. My thinking of President Bush, is that he is not what I call a Republican when in more than three years, he has ruined the value of our dollar by his lavish spending habits and produced a three trillion dollar-plus debt. The number one reason for divorce in this country is over money. Where one spouse outspends the other. I am ready to divorce President Bush as president over his lavish spending. It is in my opinion a disgrace to call him a Republican!
Gloria, Washington, Missouri, USA

I'm delighted to see that Kevin is continuing his blog through the election. I've thoroughly enjoyed reading what various folks back in the US have to say about the elections, particularly since the news I receive here is primarily through friends and via the information superhighway. I'm casting my absentee ballot for Kerry/Edwards. I've been absolutely appalled at how things have been going in the US throughout the past four years. I've been mortified by the actions of my government in terms of foreign policy. I firmly believe this election is vitally important.
Vanessa, Moscow, Russia

As long as you're tracking the election, I'd be interested in hearing more about the overseas vote (being among those voting absentee this year). Democrats Abroad runs chapters around the world, and has been pushing hard to register voters who might otherwise not have bothered. I've heard of instances of students being harassed, misled, and even threatened legally for attempting to register out of their home state. Were any of the students you spoke to affected in this fashion?
Greg Altreuter, Sydney, Australia

Vote USA 2004







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