This "Battleground" region includes six states considered still too close to call, as well as five other states that either have been
major battlegrounds all year but now tilt toward Bush or Kerry, or that have become more competitive in the final days of the campaign.
The biggest single prize among the remaining battleground states, Florida has endured four hurricanes over the past two months and now looks toward another potentially chaotic and disputed Election Day. The race is too close too call, although Republicans are expressing growing confidence.
Long lines at early voting sites and the armies of lawyers preparing for battle suggest that the fervor from the 36-day recount of 2000 has barely cooled during Bush's presidency. By the time all the polls open Tuesday morning, more than 2 million Floridians -- a third or more of total turnout -- may already have cast their ballots.
Bush has several advantages, starting with the popularity of his brother, Gov. Jeb Bush (R), whose approval ratings are the envy of the White House. Nor is the Florida economy a particular drag on Bush's fortunes. Most important may be the issue of terrorism, which overwhelms other issues.
But Kerry has assets of his own, if he can press home his message on health care and education. Dissatisfaction with the new Medicare prescription drug benefit may help him with seniors. Organizationally, he is far ahead of where Al Gore was in 2000, having targeted the state earlier, spent heavily on television and built a broader operation. A ballot initiative on the minimum wage also could help.
Polls remain tight, with one strategist quipping, "Nobody's been outside the margin of error for months." But some polls have detected a slight move in Bush's direction over the past few days. Democrats say their ground operation will carry the day, but Republicans vow that won't happen in the Sunshine State this year.
In the Senate race, Republicans hope to pick off the seat of retiring Sen. Bob Graham (D). But former housing secretary Mel R. Martinez is in a tight race against Betty Castor (D), former president of the University of South Florida and former education commissioner; the race has closely tracked the presidential race in polls. In House races, Republican Connie Mack IV, son of the former senator, is heavily favored to take the seat vacated by Porter J. Goss, the new CIA director, and Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D) should win the district represented by Rep. Peter Deutsch (D), who lost his bid for the Senate nomination to Castor.