Bush campaign strategist Matthew Dowd said there are few undecided voters left at this stage of the campaign, and that he thinks they will likely buck tradition and vote for the incumbent in November.

"An undecided or persuadable voter is as likely to vote for [Bush] as to vote for John Kerry," Dowd said, "even though a percentage of them think the country is on the wrong track."

Bush's message -- deliberately and cogently reinforced over the past four months -- will help move the relatively few undecided voters because they are familiar with the president's position and comforted by his resolve, Dowd said. Bush will use his acceptance speech Thursday to make his case for reelection and move undecided voters.

"Numbers don't move until the speech of the nominee is made," said Dowd . The goal "is for people to understand that we have a plan and agenda for the next term."

Dowd gave a guardedly optimistic analysis of the president's prospects during a 30-minute discussion Wednesday afternoon with Washington Post reporters and editors in the newspaper's work space at the Republican convention. He said the undecided or persuadable voters wedged in the middle of a closely divided electorate have shifted over the course of the campaign and could very well shift again before Election Day.

"As confident as you can be about a race that's going to be decided by three points," Dowd said, "I feel confident."

Because the race is so tightly contested, the former Democratic strategist and longtime Bush adviser from Texas said it is as essential to solidify the Republican base as it is to court swing voters. "You can't ignore either one," Dowd said. "Most elections, Republicans have had to rent Democrats for the election and then they can go back to being Democrats after Election Day."