As Geoff Earle writes in today's issue of The Hill:
Bush's campaign manager, Ken Mehlman, is predicting that Bush will win both the electoral vote and the popular vote on election night. He said the president could prevail even if Kerry were to pull out victories in Pennsylvania and Ohio—an outcome that is a distinct possibility.
"I am confident we're going to win Ohio and Florida," Mehlman said at a Christian Science Monitor lunch yesterday. He said Bush was "in the ball game" in Michigan and Pennsylvania, ahead in Wisconsin and Iowa, and "very close" in New Mexico. "All of these are states that were blue last time that are now within the margin of error today," Mehlman said.
As we enter the closing stretch of the presidential race, "both candidates are spending their last days trying to fire up their own supporters while also trying to pick off wavering supporters from their opponents," Australia's Financial Reviewreports.
Scott Stanzel, a spokesman for the Bush campaign, said this is why the president was holding a bus tour in the more rural, western half of Wisconsin. "It's an area of the state where we feel we have room for improvement," Stanzel said. "Western Wisconsin is home to many conservative Democrats who share the president's values. That includes the sanctity of marriage and right to life. Kerry is 'out of step' here."
While Bush did three campaign stops in Wisconsin, he also flew out to Iowa for another day of stumping in that state and the strategy was the same. In his appearance in Dubuque, Bush planned to try to appeal to conservative Catholic voters who dislike Kerry's pro-choice stance, Stanzel said.
With all this in mind, let's take a closer look at how the Catholic vote is shaping up in two key battleground states.
President Bush wrapped up a two-day blitz of Iowa in Dubuque on Tuesday with a sharp indictment of Democrat John Kerry's record on cultural issues..."The final clear choice in this election is on the values that are crucial to keeping our families strong. And here, my opponent and I are miles apart," Bush said at a late-afternoon rally at the Grand River Center.
"I believe marriage is a sacred commitment, a pillar of our civilization....But Senator Kerry was part of an out-of-the-mainstream minority that voted against the Defense of Marriage Act," Bush said, prompting a chorus of boos from 4,500 supporters at the rally. "Republicans and Democrats came together and agreed we should ban the brutal practice of partial-birth abortion....But my opponent was part of an out-of-the-mainstream minority that voted against the ban."
On his second campaign stop in Democrat-heavy Dubuque, Bush was hoping to improve on the support he received in 2000 by focusing on issues critical to some of the city's large Roman Catholic population.
In 2000, Democrat Al Gore beat Bush by about 6,000 votes in Dubuque County, where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by about 10,000. Bush aides said they hoped to suppress Kerry's support among devout Roman Catholics, who disagree with Kerry's support for abortion rights and his opposition to a constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage. Bush opposes abortion rights and has called for an amendment banning gay marriage.
Kerry's campaign said Bush's emphasis on cultural issues was an attempt to divide and distract voters. ("Bush Accents Values, Taxes,"The DesMoines Register, October 27, 2004)
Bush lost Iowa to Gore by 4,144 votes, less than one-third of a percentage point, in 2000.
Voters who "take[their] Christianity seriously" are "a prime target of President George W. Bush's campaign."
He is counting on religious voters—especially women—to win a state that Democrat John Kerry can't afford to lose. And unlike 2000, when he lost here by four points, Bush operatives have been organizing almost pew by pew....
Bush's "values" push has persuaded some Democrats. "Abortion is above all other issues for me," Sandy Beveridge said at her door. "I don't think I can vote for Kerry."...
As part of his appeal to the state's huge Catholic population, Bush recently was granted an audience with Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia, who, like many bishops, had said Catholics had "a duty and responsibility" to back candidates who upheld church teachings on "life" issues. Kerry's response was to say he "respects" his church and its leaders, "but I respectfully disagree."
Bush has volunteers in every one of the state's 1,000 Catholic parishes. This weekend, as part of a huge get-out-the-vote effort that didn't exist in 2000, volunteers will hand out pamphlets at churches that compare the candidates' positions on a variety of issues, from abortion to tax cuts for children in religious schools.
"If you follow the teachings of the Catholic church, you can't vote for Kerry," said Rob Gleason, who runs Bush's Catholic outreach in Pennsylvania. "I was stunned that [Al] Gore got the majority of Catholic votes here. We're doing every thing we can to make sure that doesn't happen again."...
Bush has a prayer here in part because of inroads with Democratic Catholics and evangelicals. If Bush wins this state, and thus the presidency, he literally can thank God—and thousands of volunteers who spread his and Bush's word. It would mean Bush's religious strategy netted more new voters than it repelled. It would mean his gamble paid off. ("Strategy Could Turn Women Off," Newsday, October 27, 2004)