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The BBC's Phillippa Thomas
"Governor Bush has reason to be optimistic"
 real 56k

Wednesday, 25 October, 2000, 11:18 GMT 12:18 UK
Candidates fight for close states
Tony Bennett and Al Gore
Mr Gore has the support of the singer Tony Bennett
With less than two weeks to go to the US presidential election, both main candidates are fighting for states that should have been in the bag long ago.

George W Bush is spending Wednesday on a bus trip across Florida, where his brother Jeb is state governor.


You could have an electoral college victory and not a popular victory

Senator Robert Toricelli (Democrat)

His defeated Republican rival John McCain is campaigning with him.

Vice-President Al Gore, meanwhile, starts the day in his home state of Tennessee.

He has failed to establish a clear lead over Mr Bush there, despite the fact that Mr Gore and his father have both represented the state in Congress.

It is unusual for a candidate to have to fight for his home state, but Mr Gore says Tennessee is "always a state where you have to campaign hard."

"It has a Republican governor and two Republican senators", he said. Mr Gore is a Democrat.

Must-win for Bush

Mr Bush's spokesman, Scott McClellan, spoke in similar terms of Florida.

"Florida's a battleground state and it's going to be a close election", Mr McClellan said explaining why the Texas governor is spending an entire day in the state.
George W Bush
Mr Bush campaigned in Tennessee before heading to Florida

Florida's 25 votes constitute nearly 10 % of the 270 electoral college votes needed to win the White House.

Analysts have been hard pressed to come up with a scenario in which Mr Bush loses Florida but wins the race.

Mr Bush will be aiming to reassure the state's many retired voters that he poses no danger to the country's Social Security pension programme.

Wooing older voters

He has proposed a partial privatisation of Social Security, promised to maintain existing benefits, and ruled out tax increases.

Mr Gore appeared with the singer Tony Bennett, who is popular with older Americans, on Tuesday night in what may have been an effort to offset Mr Bush's Florida trip.

Mr Gore claims to have seized the initiative.

Some polls show him taking a slight lead over Mr Bush this week. But the difference between them falls within the polls' margin of error.

Green worry

And there is a worry for Mr Gore too.

The Green Party candidate, Ralph Nader, is beginning to siphon off support in some states where voters have strong environmental interests.

The race is so close that even the loss of one or two key states could lose the election.

The country's electoral college system, under which the candidate who wins the popular vote in each state takes all of its electoral votes, could play a role as well.

According to Democratic Senator Robert Toricelli, the race is so close that the result may not necessarily reflect the exact will of the people.

"You could have an electoral college victory and not a popular victory", he said.

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