President Clinton was within reach of an Electoral College majority and a second term as the 1996 campaign entered the final weekend, but faced a tightening race across the South and Mountain West, according to a 50-state Associated Press survey.
Benefiting from leads in Pacific states and the industrial belt stretching from New Jersey to Illinois, Clinton was clearly leading in 25 states and the District of Columbia with a combined 314 electoral votes - 44 more than the 270 needed to win the White House, according to the AP review.Republican nominee Bob Dole, however, could bank on fewer than a dozen states and 100 electoral votes. Ross Perot's support was approaching double digits in many states and costing Clinton a bit, but the Reform Party candidate was a distant third everywhere, according to the AP review of state-by-state polling data and interviews.
"I still talk personally to a lot of grudging voters," said Oregon pollster Tim Hibbitts. "I see (Clinton's) margins here narrowing as he suffers some bleedout to Ross Perot and (Green Party candidate) Ralph Nader."
Republican pollster Ed Goeas said he still saw Clinton on track to win but predicted he would again fall short of 50 percent, because of Perot and Nader.
"I can beat one candidate. I can't beat two. So don't vote for Ross Perot," Dole said Thursday in a blunt effort to stop any Perot gains.
As Dole sought a dramatic comeback, and Clinton bid for an Electoral College landslide, the key in the closing days was a dozen tossup states in which neither candidate could claim a comfortable lead.
This group included several traditional Republican strongholds that have eluded Dole throughout the fall: Florida, Arizona, Indiana, Virginia and South Dakota. Other battlegrounds included Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, Nevada, Montana and Colorado.
Republicans put Louisiana on this list, too, though Democrats said Clinton's lead is comfortable there and nationally. "I cannot remember approaching Election Day with a map that has been so positive and so truly national for a Democratic presidential campaign," said Clinton deputy campaign manager Ann Lewis.
Dole's formula for getting to 270 electoral votes was dependent on winning virtually all of the tossups. But even if he won them all, Dole would still fall short. To get there, aides said Dole would either have to defeat Clinton in California or in three Midwest states: Ohio, Michigan and Missouri. Clinton holds sizable leads in each state.
Clinton's electoral strategy is anchored on the coasts: He leads comfortably from Maine to Maryland in the East and in Washington, Oregon and California to the West. Most remarkable, however, has been his consistent lead in the industrial states. Dole has not advertised of late in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Illinois because of big Clinton leads and the Republican trails by eight points or more in Missouri, Michigan and Ohio.
How Electoral College race looks today
CLINTON LEADS (314): Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, New Mexico.
DOLE LEADS (81): Alaska, Idaho, Kansas, Mississippi, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Wyoming.
LEANING DOLE (26): North Dakota, Alabama, North Carolina.
TOSSUP (117): Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Montana, Nevada, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia.
The Electoral College
While candidates campaign heartily for the nation's popular vote, the Electoral College is actually the final step on the road to the White House. How the process works:
Each state has one electoral vote for each senator and representative. The Electoral College has 435 representatives for the House, 100 for the Senate and 3 for the District of Columbia, totaling 538.
2 Election Day, November 5
Americans go to the polls. The candidate who wins the state's popular vote gets all the state's electors.
3 December 16
Following the November election, electors from the winning party meet to vote in their state capitals or another designated location.
4 January 6
Electoral votes are sent to the president of the Senate, who ceremonially reads the results before a joint session of Congress. A candidate must take at least 270 votes to become the next president.
5 January 20
At noon the president and vice president are sworn into office by the chief justice of the Supreme Court.
Electoral votes per state
Alabama 9 Montana 3
Alaska 3 Nebraska 5
Arizona 8 Nevada 4
Arkansas 6 New Hampshire 4
California 54 New Jersey 15
Colorado 8 New Mexico 5
Connecticut 8 New York 33
Delaware 3 North Carolina 14
D.C. 3 North Dakota 3
Florida 25 Ohio 21
Georgia 13 Oklahoma 8
Hawaii 4 Oregon 7
Idaho 4 Pennsylvania 23
Illinois 22 Rhode Island 4
Indiana 12 South Carolina 8
Iowa 7 South Dakota 3
Kansas 6 Tennessee 11
Kentucky 8 Texas 32
Louisiana 9 Utah 5
Maine 4 Vermont 3
Maryland 10 Virginia 13
Massachusetts 12 Washington 11
Michigan 18 West Virginia 5
Minnesota 10 Wisconsin 11
Mississippi 7 Wyoming 3