The election is a mere five days away. President Bush on Thursday is stumping in Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania, while Sen. John Kerry is focusing on Ohio and Wisconsin before swinging south to spend Friday in Florida.
All Politics is Local
Bush and Kerry often try to show off their knowledge of the political and cultural terrain in swing states.
"Not only I am at the University of Wisconsin, Green Bay, but I'm at the home of the fighting Phoenix," Kerry said Tuesday.
Bush, speaking at a rally in Onalaska, Wis., addressed the town's mayor, Jim Bialecki. "Mr. Mayor, I'm proud you're here. Thanks for coming. Fill the potholes."
Kerry made a point of going goose hunting in the battleground state of Ohio recently to appeal to hunters and gun owners. Bush, meanwhile, showed his support for dairy farmers in Wisconsin — a state that has 15,000 dairy farmers and which he lost by fewer than 6,000 votes in 2000.
While the War on Terror (search) and national domestic issues dominate the candidates' rally speeches, both men are using very narrow local issues to try to appeal to undecided voters in the all-important battleground states.
Take, for example, Yucca Mountain in Nevada. Polls show a majority of Nevadans don't agree with the president's approval of legislation to store nuclear waste there starting in 2010. So, Kerry talks about the issue whenever he campaigns in the state.
"Nevada knows what George Bush is going to do. You already know he's going to shove it down your throats. He's going to make it happen," the Massachusetts senator said during a campaign stop in Reno on Oct. 22. "Well not on my watch. It's not going to happen."
In New Mexico, a state he lost by only 366 votes in 2000, Bush talks about wildfire prevention. He tells western voters that some Democrats supported his healthy forest initiative to thin out highly flammable forest underbrush, but not Kerry.
"Both the Republican senator and the Democrat senator from New Mexico supported the healthy forest bill," the president said in Hobbs, N.M., on Oct. 11. "But my opponent was against it. Now he says he likes parts of the law. I guess it's not only the wildfires that shift in the wind."
Political science experts say local issues resonate well with votes.
"I don't know if it turns nonvoters into voters but those issues make a difference because they generate turnout among people who at least normally vote and people who have a special interests and concerns," said Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics (search).
While local issues may resonate with only a small percentage of votes, that may be all it takes to win a battleground state — and one battleground state may make the difference in this election.
"They have the potential of swinging a swing state in the direction of one candidate over another," added FOX News political contributor Michael Barone (search). "This is an election in which the polls are very close, and the candidates are looking for every bit of advantage they can and every bit of disadvantage for the opposition."
—FOX News' Molly Henneberg contributed to this report.
BoSox Player Endorses Bush
Curt Schilling, pitcher for the Boston Red Sox — who reigned victorious in the World Series Wednesday night — appeared on "Good Morning, America," Thursday, where he endorsed Bush for president.
Host Charlie Gibson said to Schilling and his wife, Shonda: "You both have certainly lifelong membership now in the Red Sox nation. It was a great thing to watch, and I think everybody — whether they were great Red Sox fans or not — had to admire what this team did. It was extraordinary, and one of the great stories of sport. And sport always produces such great stories. Curt, Shonda, great to have you with us. Congratulations."
Curt Schilling: "And make sure you tell everybody to vote, and vote Bush next week."
News that tons of explosives disappeared from an arms depot in Iraq continues to be a hot topic on the campaign trail. Democrats charge that the explosives mystery is more proof Bush can't effectively lead the country or the war, while Republicans argue that Kerry is using unproven statements to exploit the current political situation.
"After repeatedly calling Iraq the wrong war,' and a diversion,' Senator Kerry this week seemed shocked to learn that Iraq was a dangerous place, full of dangerous weapons. The Senator used to know that, even though he seems to have forgotten it over the course of the campaign, but after all that's why we're there," Bush said in Lancaster, Pa. "I want to remind the American people, if Senator Kerry had his way, we would still be taking our 'global test.' Saddam Hussein would still be in power. He would control all those weapons and explosives and could have shared them with our terrorist enemies."
"John Kerry doesn't know if those explosives were even at the weapons facility when our troops arrived in the area of Baghdad," Vice President Dick Cheney added in Kissimmee, Fla., on Wednesday. "John Kerry will say and do anything except give our troops the backing and the praise they deserve … John Kerry is playing armchair general and he's not doing a very good job of it."
In Sioux City, Iowa, Kerry, who said Cheney was becoming the "chief minister of disinformation," charged: "What we're seeing is a White House that is dodging and bobbing and weaving in their usual efforts to avoid responsibility, just as they've done every step of the way in our involvement in Iraq."
Bush's national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, sat down with FOX News' Brian Kilmeade to talk about Iraq and the missing ammo issue, among other things.
"It is a complicated issue. What we need to do is find out the facts before we jump to conclusions, we need to find out the facts," Rice said during the interview, which aired Thursday morning. The second installation will air Friday morning. "It's not clear if the explosives were there when our troops got there or not … we'll get to the bottom of it, we'll ask the tough questions ... but we shouldn't jump to conclusions."
"Iraq was a place awash in weapons," Rice added, noting that U.S. troops have already destroyed thousands of munitions. "That process is well underway and continues to this day."
Among the Swing Voters
Kerry gained some ground on Bush among swing voters in the last month, with several citing the presidential debates as a factor in their shift, according to a poll released Wednesday by The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press. The group of 519 voters tilted toward Bush in September and is now evenly split. By more than 3-to-1, the swing voters said Kerry did the better job in the debates.
The number of swing voters in that group either committed or leaning toward Kerry was 40 percent, up from 28 percent in September. The number either committed or leaning toward Bush was 38 percent, compared to 34 percent in September. Swing voters make up about 15 percent of the overall electorate, according to Pew polling.
Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania
Kerry has a slight lead over Bush in Florida, according to an American Research Group poll of 600 likely voters there, conducted Oct. 23-25. The Massachusetts senator has 49 percent, Bush has 46 percent, Independent candidate Ralph Nader has 1 percent and 4 percent are unsure. Bush's lead is one percentage point more than it was on Oct. 5.
"I think this is going to be a very close state — hopefully not as close as in 2000," Florida Sen. Bob Graham, a Democrat, told FOX News on Thursday morning. "There's going to be a lot of issues that's going to make a final decision with voters," such as the War on Terror, Social Security and Medicare. Bush won the Sunshine State by only 537 votes four years ago.
Another ARG poll of 600 likely Ohio voters, conducted during the same period, found that Kerry has 49 percent and Bush has 47 percent. Kerry's lead increased by one percentage point since Oct. 6. Nader will not be on the Ohio ballot.
And a third ARG poll of 600 likely voters in Pennsylvania conducted during that time frame found that Kerry has 50 percent support and Bush has 47 percent; Nader isn't on that ballot, either. Bush and Kerry were only two percentage points apart earlier this month. A Franklin and Marshall College poll of 622 registered Pennsylvania voters found that Kerry has a larger lead - 49 percent to Bush's 44 percent. Another 7 percent surveyed Oct. 19-23 were unsure.
And a CNN/USAToday/Gallup poll of 649 likely Iowa voters conducted Oct. 22-25 found that Bush has 50 percent support in the Hawkeye State, Kerry has 46 percent, Nader has 1 percent and 3 percent are unsure.
Sponsor: Kerry-Edwards campaign
Voice over: "Our soldiers fighting in Iraq are heroes, their families have earned our thanks and our support. As we see the deepening crisis and chaos in Iraq, as we choose a new commander-in-chief and a fresh start, we will always support and honor those who serve. Strength. Courage. Patriotism."
On screen: "Thank you."
"The Daily Show with Jon Stewart":
"In the wake of 2000, partisan officials in swing states are poring over election law, knowing that every vote that doesn't count counts.
Take Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell, who could be this year's Katherine Harris. He's made it hard on Democratic voters with a series of rulings on such obscure issues as provisional ballots and parolee voting notices. He even tried to invalidate thousands of mostly Democratic registration forms by saying they weren't printed on heavy enough paper. Blackwell demanded the forms be resubmitted, not only on thicker paper, but on paper embossed with calla lilly border and inlaid vellum overleaf. That's right, he's got wedding fever!"
FOX News' Corbett Riner and The Associated Press contributed to this report.