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Trail Tales: Sleeper State Surprise?

The election is six days away. As President Bush and John Kerry prepare to wrap up their last-minute stumping this week, the president is touring the Rust Belt in an effort to woo Democrats while his Democratic opponent focuses on the economy in Iowa and Minnesota.

Sleeper State Surprise?

By all measures, this year's presidential election is going to be a close one. Both candidates are strongly courting a handful of states either because they're chock full of electoral votes or because one or the other candidate has to steal a state from the other party's column of wins from the 2000 election.

While states like Ohio, Iowa and Florida are getting all the attention for being key battleground states this year, political observers say a handful of "sleeper states" could also come into play. Those most frequently noted are Arkansas, West Virginia and Hawaii.

In 2000, although Democrats outnumbered Republicans 2-1, Bush won West Virginia by 40,978 votes. A Mason-Dixon poll conducted Oct. 14-16 of West Virginia voters gave Bush 49 percent, Kerry 44 percent and independent candidate Ralph Nader 1 percent; another 6 percent of voters were unsure.

Bush beat Al Gore by 5.45 percentage points in Arkansas in 2000, but the state has shifted less toward Republicans than most Southern states. In 2000, Gore won Hawaii with 55.8 percent of the vote while Bush got 37.5 percent. Hawaii last voted for a Republican in 1984, when it gave its four Electoral College votes to incumbent President Ronald Reagan.

Recent polls have found a tightening race in both Arkansas and Hawaii, causing Democrats in the Aloha State to advertise there to fend off a Bush advance.

But Rodney Slater, former transportation secretary under President Clinton, said not to expect a vote for Bush from Hawaii.

"If you're concerned about the war in Iraq, if you're concerned about those issues that strengthen America and Americans, education, health care, job opportunities and the like, you're going to be for Senator Kerry," Slater told FOX News on Wednesday. "I think the same holds true for Arkansas and West Virginia.

"I was just in Arkansas this past weekend, so I think we're going to do well in keeping those two states, and we're also going to keep Hawaii, as well," Slater added.

Ron Kaufman, a former White House political director for Bush, said he agreed security is an important issue in Hawaii, and that's exactly why Bush is running ahead there.

"It's a surprise to everyone, I think, us and them," Kaufman told FOX News.

West Virginia is still a conservative state, he noted, "and I think they, more than anybody, understand just how much this president has done for the country and for West Virginia. So I'm pretty comfortable with West Virginia. Same with Arkansas."

Kaufman noted that a couple other "sneaky states" — such as New Jersey, which Gore easily won in 2000 — could turn out a surprise on Nov. 2.

A Quinnipiac Poll of 852 likely New Jersey voters out Wednesday shows Bush and Kerry running neck-and-neck with 46 percent support. A week ago, Kerry was up 4 percentage points from Bush. That's a "shock to everyone," Kaufman said, "mostly because the Democrats haven't been paying attention to New Jersey."

"And of the two big states today, Ohio is closer than we thought it would be, quite frankly, and Michigan is closer than they thought it would be, mostly because for a while, neither side paid attention to the home base for a while," Kaufman added.

"So these sneaky states are there because we kind of forgot about them for a while."

Even though Slater agreed the race is going to be tight across the country, he said, "On election night, John Kerry is going to carry New Jersey. Again, he will pick up Arkansas and West Virginia and will keep Hawaii. We're also going to do quite well in Pennsylvania. We'll carry that state. And Ohio is neck-and-neck. But when you start looking at the loss of jobs, higher health care costs and the like, we're going to pick up Ohio as well. It's going to be a great race and a great victory on Nov. 2."

—FOX News' Liza Porteus contributed to this report.

Nader Off Ohio Ballot

The Supreme Court has refused to put independent candidate Ralph Nader back on the ballot in the battleground state of Ohio.

Ohio removed the consumer advocate from the ballot, citing a state law that requires people who collect signatures on candidates' petitions to be registered voters. Democrats fearful that Nader could cost them votes had presented evidence that petition collectors registered at fake addresses.

Nader says the law violates free speech, and asked the Supreme Court to review the case. But the high court denied the request without comment on Tuesday. The court denied a similar request by Nader in Pennsylvania during the weekend. He will be on the ballot in 34 states and the District of Columbia.

Poll Watch

Bush leads Kerry by just one point, according to a Reuters/Zogby poll released Wednesday. The latest three-day national tracking poll puts Bush at 48 percent and Kerry at 47 percent. The Massachusetts senator gained 2 points on Bush in one day — 4 percent remain undecided. Bush led Kerry 49-46 percent on Tuesday.

The number of likely voters who thought Bush deserved re-election, 48 percent, was equal to those who wanted someone new. Bush's presidential performance was rated as excellent or good by 49 percent, and 51 percent said it was only fair or poor.

The poll of 1,203 likely voters was taken Sunday through Tuesday and has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.9 percentage points.

In a series of Reuters/Zogby tracking polls in 10 battleground states, Kerry led in five states and Iowa was tied. Bush built on his leads in the key states of Ohio and Florida, while Kerry had an edge in Pennsylvania and moved into a slim lead in Wisconsin. All four results were within the poll's margin of error.

Meanwhile, the latest Harris Poll shows the two candidates virtually neck-and-neck, with Kerry at 48 percent and Bush at 47 percent. The poll of 2,493 likely voters was conducted Oct. 21-25 and also found very little difference between the numbers for the popular vote as a whole and in 17 swing states. In both cases, the election is much too close to call.

Illinois, Missouri and New Jersey

Kerry has a huge lead over Bush in Illinois — a state whose 21 electoral votes Al Gore won in 2000 — according to a Research 2000 poll conducted Oct. 21-23 for The St. Louis Post-Dispatch-KMOV-TV. Of the 800 likely voters surveyed, the Kerry-Edwards camp has 53 percent, the Bush-Cheney camp has 41 percent and another 6 percent are unsure.

Another Research 2000 poll of 800 likely voters in Missouri, conducted for The St. Louis Post-Dispatch-KMOV-TV Oct. 21-23, gave Bush-Cheney 48 percent, Kerry-Edwards 45 percent and 7 percent were unsure. Bush won that state's 11 electoral votes in 2000.

The day's biggest stunner was a Quinnipiac Poll of 852 likely New Jersey voters, which shows Bush and Edwards running even with 46 percent support. A week ago, Kerry was up 4 percentage points from Bush. The Nader-Camejo ticket got 2 percent support, while another 6 percent were unsure. Gore easily won that state's 15 electoral votes in 2000.

Ad Wars

Ad: 'NYC Mayors,' radio ad

Sponsor: Bush-Cheney '04

Rudy Giuliani: "I'm Rudy Giuliani."

Ed Koch: "I'm Ed Koch."

Giuliani: "I'm a former mayor of New York City and a Republican."

Koch: "I'm a former mayor of New York City and a Democrat."

Giuliani: "We don't always agree."

Koch: "In fact, we often disagree."

Giuliani: "But we're both supporting George Bush for president."

Koch: "That's right, even me, Ed Koch, a lifelong Democrat. I've been impressed with President Bush and his response to the Sept. 11 attacks and I know he has what it takes to win the War on Terror."

Giuliani: "President Bush is a leader who is willing to stick with difficult decisions even as public opinion shifts. And John Kerry, his record suggests a man who changes his position often even on matters as important as war and peace."

Koch: "President Bush will go after the terrorists and the countries that harbor them. That's why for the first time in my life I'm voting for a Republican for president, I'm voting for George W. Bush, and I hope you will too!"

Narrator: Paid for by Bush-Cheney '04, Inc.

Ad: 'Whatever It Takes'

Sponsor: Bush-Cheney '04

Bush: "These four years have brought moments I could not foresee and will not forget. I've learned first hand that ordering Americans into battle is the hardest decision, even when it is right. I have returned the salute of wounded soldiers who say they were just doing their job. I have held the children of the fallen who are told their dad or mom is a hero but would rather just have their mom or dad. I've met with the parents and wives and husbands who have received a folded flag. And in those military families, I have seen the character of a great nation.

"Because of your service and sacrifice, we are defeating the terrorists where they live and plan, and you're making America safer. I will never relent in defending America, whatever it takes."

Ad: 'Obligation'

Sponsor: Kerry-Edwards campaign

Kerry: "The obligation of a commander in chief is to keep our country safe. In Iraq, George Bush has overextended our troops and now failed to secure 380 tons of deadly explosives. The kind used for attacks in Iraq and for terrorist bombings. His Iraq misjudgments put our soldiers at risk, and make our country less secure. And all he offers is more of the same. As president, I'll bring a fresh start to protect our troops and our nation. I'm John Kerry and I approved this message."

Ad: 'Respuesta'

Sponsor: Kerry-Edwards campaign

English translation; ad is in Spanish

Mari: "Ugh, I am so furious, mom! I heard another ad by Bush and the Republicans against John Kerry and the Democrats."

Susana: "They are shameless! They do not understand personal family issues. Bush and the Republicans do not want us to go out and vote, that is why they try to anger us with lies, their dirty tricks to keep us from voting. They really do not know us."

Mari: "Yes! They talk about family values but they do not value our families because they do not respect our culture, religion or community."

Susana: "Exactly! Bush and the Republicans attack, distort and lie. Kerry and the Democrats tell the truth."

Mari: "They'll create more jobs, improve our schools and reduce the medical costs ..."

Susana: "… while Bush and the Republicans only help their friends in the insurance and pharmaceutical companies."

Mari: "Susana! We have to vote for John Kerry and the Democrats today!"

Funny Files:

"Late Late Show with Jeff Altman":

"Bill Clinton is in swing states to remind people what it was like to vote for a candidate because you like them, not just because you hate the other guy. Many analysts doubt the former president's help will make much difference as Dick Cheney has sewn up the 'bad ticker' vote."

"Real Time with Bill Maher":

"Condoleezza Rice is on the stump! I mean, this has never happened, a national security adviser out campaigning ... Isn't this her busy season? If there's going to be [a pre-election] attack, shouldn't she be in Washington ignoring memos and cherry-picking intelligence?"

—The Associated Press contributed to this report.