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Who's Ahead in the Electoral Vote Count?
Political Junkie
Send your questions about campaigns and elections.

By Ken Rudin
Special to washingtonpost.com
Friday, Oct. 13, 2000

Question: Where can I find a breakdown of how the presidential candidates are doing on a state-by-state basis? As we all know, it doesn't matter who is ahead nationally, but who is ahead in the states with the most electoral votes. -- James Joyce, Orlando, Fla.

Answer: Your point that it is state-by-state tallies that matter now, and not national polls, is an important one and cannot be overstated enough. It will take 270 electoral votes to decide the next president.

Looking at the latest state polls and incorporating information obtained in conversations with folks around the country, I have assembled a personal – certainly unofficial – breakdown of an electoral vote count. This is how I see it at the moment, based on the best information I have come across, but it is completely subjective and may differ from other such compilations that have been published. Going into the third presidential debate, I have it as a near-tie: Bush with 234 electoral votes, Gore with 230, and 74 too close to call. Here's my state-by-state breakdown (number in parentheses indicates electoral votes):


California (54)
Connecticut (8)
D.C. (3)
Hawaii (4)
Illinois (22)
Iowa (7)
Maine (4)
Maryland (10)
Massachusetts (12)
Minnesota (10)
New Jersey (15)
New York (33)
Oregon (7)
Pennsylvania (23)
Rhode Island (4)
Vermont (3)
Washington (11)

TOTAL: 230

Alabama (9)
Alaska (3)
Arizona (8)
Colorado (8)
Florida (25)
Georgia (13)
Idaho (4)
Indiana (12)
Kansas (6)
Kentucky (8)
Mississippi (7)
Montana (3)
Nebraska (5)
Nevada (4)
New Hampshire (4)
New Mexico (5)
North Carolina (14)
North Dakota (3)
Ohio (21)
Oklahoma (8)
South Carolina (8)
South Dakota (3)
Texas (32)
Utah (5)
Virginia (13)
Wyoming (3)

TOTAL: 234

Arkansas (6)
Delaware (3)
Louisiana (9)
Michigan (18)
Missouri (11)
Tennessee (11)
West Virginia (5)
Wisconsin (11)


Question: I am having a hard time understanding how Joe Lieberman can call himself an "Orthodox Jew" and "pro-choice" at the same time. It seems to me that it has to be one or the other but not both. -- Jeff Turner, Gates Mills, Ohio

Answer: Traditionally, Orthodox Judaism allows abortion only when the mother's life is in danger. But many Orthodox rabbis call the decision "complicated" and say there is no monolithic response to the issue. Lieberman is, as you note, a proponent of abortion rights and has even voted against the ban on "partial-birth" abortion. But his views on the subject come from his role as a lawmaker, not a religious figure. And he insists that abortion is a personal matter. The Washington Times reported last month that during his first Senate campaign in 1988, in which he unseated Republican Lowell Weicker, Lieberman made a "pro-life pledge" to Connecticut's archbishop and promised he would vote differently than Weicker, who supported abortion rights. But a Lieberman spokesman denied any such pre-election meeting took place that year, and emphatically said that the Connecticut Democrat "never said he would limit a woman's right to choose."

Question: Much has been said about Lieberman's being the first Jewish candidate on the presidential ticket. Wouldn't 1964 Republican presidential nominee Barry Goldwater actually be the first? -- Manuel L. Cajuguiran, College Park, Md.

Answer: Goldwater was not Jewish, though his father was; his paternal grandparents were Jews who emigrated from Poland. His mother, however, was Episcopalian, and he was baptized and raised as one. Although Goldwater never overtly campaigned for Jewish votes or went out of his way on behalf of Israel, he did talk openly about his Jewish roots. He once joked that because he was half-Jewish, he could only play nine holes at restricted golf courses. By the way, Goldwater's widow Susan is a convert to Judaism.
The last winning ticket comprised of non-veterans. (Collection of Ken Rudin)

Question: Should George W. Bush and Dick Cheney win, will they be the first presidential team elected that never served in the active military? -- Lula Mae Gray, Baltimore, Md.

Answer: No, but they would be the first since 1940, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his new Democratic running mate, Henry Wallace, were elected.

Question: What is the origin of the term "Veep," and who was the first to be called Veep? -- Robert J. Long, Houghton, Mich.

The original "Veep." (Collection of Ken Rudin)

Answer: Alben Barkley, Harry Truman's vice president, was the first to be called "Veep" -- which is shorthand for "V.P." (or "Vice President"). William Safire writes in his New Political Dictionary that Barkley was elected at a time when "more and more corporate Vice Presidents were becoming known as 'VPs,' and the familiar form 'veep' -- to describe an informal-minded man -- was natural." Safire also notes that a later number two, Richard Nixon, did not want the title, saying, "I think veep was a term of affection applied to Mr. Barkley and should go out with him."

Question: I often hear of candidates serving out their term of office as "lame ducks." Isn't a lame duck a person who has been defeated but is serving out his/her term in office? Where did the term originate? -- Gary Washburn, Chatsworth, Calif.

Answer: I'm going with Safire again on this, who writes that a lame duck is "an officeholder whose power is diminished because he is soon to leave office, as a result of defeat or statutory limitation." The term was "modernized" during the 1920s when there was a movement to enact a "lame-duck amendment" to the Constitution. Until the Twentieth Amendment was ratified in 1933, a new president would not take office until March, four months after the election. And the old Congress could hold a lame-duck session until then. By moving the beginning of the presidential and congressional terms to January, the new amendment cut the lame-duck period in half.

Safire adds that lame duck "was originally an eighteenth-century import from Britain meaning a bankrupt businessman; by the 1830s the phrase was used to label politically bankrupt politicians." In 1910, The Nation described Election Day casualties hoping for better days as "lame ducks in the sense that they have been winged, but hope to preen their plumage again." Today it is often used snidely, as when a mayor, governor, or President makes "lame-duck appointments" by rewarding friends with judicial posts during his last days in office.

Nixon ran from the Empire State in '68 but could not claim its electoral votes. (Collection of Ken Rudin)
Question: Currently, Al Gore is running behind in the polls in his home state of Tennessee. Has anyone ever won the presidency while losing his home state? -- Andrew Steinberg, Cincinnati, Ohio

Answer: Richard Nixon, who hailed from New York when he made his second presidential bid in 1968, lost the Empire State en route to his successful campaign that year. But if you're among those who can only picture Nixon as a Californian, then you need go to 1916, when President Woodrow Wilson was reelected but lost New Jersey in the process to Republican nominee Charles Evans Hughes.

Got a question? Ask Ken Rudin: junkie@washingtonpost.com

Ken Rudin, political editor at National Public Radio, is also the creator of washingtonpost.com's ScuttleButton contest.

© Copyright 2000 Ken Rudin

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