Parties Sidestep Solidly Red, Blue States

Pennsylvania gets Bruce Springsteen (search). New York doesn't even get money to buy lawn signs for the presidential candidates.

Such is life in those electorally forgotten states that are solidly in either John Kerry's (search) or President Bush's column. For obvious reasons, the real attention this election season is being lavished on the states that are still in play.

So when Springsteen and other musicians launched a 30-city concert tour aimed at ousting Bush, they made stops in battleground states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Iowa and Wisconsin.

No Big Apple, no Los Angeles, no Dallas, no Chicago.

"As a young person, there's so many people telling us to vote, but it's almost like our votes don't matter," said Heather Gebo of Watertown, N.Y., a psychology major at the State University campus in Albany. "New York state is already set. In one way, it's a mixed message."

That is not to say the candidates have no presence in non-competitive states. Bush and Kerry both work California and New York regularly for campaign cash, and Bush takes time to relax at his ranch near Crawford, Texas. The two also give the occasional high-profile policy address in media-rich New York City, where Bush also staged the Republican National Convention.

If the United States elected the president based on the popular vote, the big states would surely be visited more by the candidates. But the Electoral College system gives smaller states more say in the outcome. (Florida is the exception this year — a big state that is up for grabs.)

The attention heaped on Ohio has resulted in the state getting to host the vice presidential debate, along with dozens of visits from each candidate. New York, meanwhile, got a short, debate-prep stay by Sen. John Edwards.

"It's almost as if the people in a dozen battleground states are really the only campaign for president," said GOP operative Nelson Warfield, a top aide on Bob Dole's 1996 presidential campaign. "If the Republicans wanted to spend every dime they had on New York, they could be competitive there, but that just doesn't make sense when you win this thing in the Electoral College."

Not all voters are upset about being ignored.

"I want Bush out," said Marsha Korrie, a furniture saleswoman from Syracuse. "If that means Kerry has to skip New York to concentrate on other states, I'm not going to be offended."

The neglect can make things tricky for local party officials. State Democratic Chairman Herman Farrell and his GOP counterpart, Alexander Treadwell, have had to dip into their own treasuries for all sorts of things, including those red, white and blue Kerry/Edwards or Bush/Cheney lawn signs.

"Obviously, I would love to see the president come into Buffalo at the close of the campaign," the Republican leader said, "but we have to be realistic."