It’s time to start some political handicapping, and as those of you who remember my adventures and pontifications in the 2000 presidential election will recall, I have no problem going out on a limb to say what I think. So here it is this time around: Bush will lose. Despite “national” polling showing him ahead—polling that is virtually worthless, by the way—Bush is behind on my electoral map and in danger of losing handily if toss-up states do not go his way. It is certainly possible for him to eek out a victory, but almost everything has to break his way (just like last time), and I don’t think it will be close enough that the Supreme Court will be able to elect him again.

I’m basing this judgment of a Bush loss on a number of factors: First, Gore won the popular vote by 500,000 last time around and virtually none of those voters are going to switch to Bush. Second, the delusional Naderites who threw caution to the wind in 2000 only to feel it blow back on them like a hurricaine when Bush won, will be by-and-large unwilling to suffer the same fate again. Indeed, Ralph has been unable to even qualify for the ballot here in Oregon, the most pro-Nader state in the union in 2000, and he’s received ample Republican support in his efforts. Third, substantial numbers of formerly pro-Bush Americans are worse off than they were four years ago. Fourth, the Republican Party is being ripping at the seams thanks to Bush’s almost total disregard of his own party’s platform. Deficit hawks are aghast at what Bush has done. Log Cabin Republicans can’t possibly vote for Bush in good conscience. Isolationist Republicans are appalled. Smaller government Republicans are wondering who tossed out the party platform. Libertarian/civil liberties Republicans think Bush to be one of the worst presidents in recent memory. Even tax-cut Republicans, if they thought about it (which, sadly, most do not), would be opposed to Bush if they realized that a tax cut without a corresponding spending cut isn’t a tax cut at all: it’s a tax deferment, in this case likely to be foisted on our kids.

All that said, Bush will win a number of states. I predict he’ll take the following: Alabama (9), Alaska (3), Georgia (15), Idaho (4), Indiana (11), Kansas (6), Kentucky (8), Louisiana (9), Mississippi (6), Missouri (11), Montana (3), Nebraska (5), Nevada (5), North Dakota (3), Oklahoma (7), South Carolina (8), South Dakota (3), Tennessee (11), Texas (34), Utah (5), Virginia (13), and Wyoming (3). That’s 177 electoral votes for the most miserable failure of a president in living memory. There’s the reason the rest of the world thinks we’re dolts.

What about Kerry/Edwards? I would put the following states into their “absolutely will win” category: Connecticut (7), Deleware (3), DC (3), Maine (4), Maryland (10), Massachusetts (12), Minnesota (10), New York (31), Rhode Island (4), Vermont (3) and Wisconsin (10). Add to that the same West Coast that Gore won last time: California (55), Oregon (7), Washington (11), Hawaii (4) and the total is 174.

Pundits say Ohio is a “battle ground state.” It’s not. Kerry’s polling 7 points up prior to the Democratic convention and jobs losses there have been horrendous. Ohio’s 20 electoral votes will go democratic. Bush barely won in 2000; Clinton carried it by 6 percent in 1996.

What else do I expect Kerry to win? Iowa (7), Illinois (21), Michigan (17), New Jersey (15), New Hampshire (4), Pennsylvania (21). Gore won all of these, and although Michigan in particular is tight, latest polling has Kerry/Edwards ahead in each. That is 279, and enough for victory.

What’s presently a dead-heat? Arizona (6) because of an influx of Democrats into the larger population centers of the state. Florida (27) because nobody knows if Jeb Bush has rigged the system again. New Mexico (5), which was a virtual tie last time. West Virginia (5) is within margin of error. I actually expect that Kerry will win all of these. Colorado (9) will probably go Bush, but I don’t think it’s a lock. North Carolina (15) would easily be Republican but John Edwards puts it in play. I nonetheless expect a Bush victory there.

If Kerry has anywhere near the 322 electoral votes I’ve projected above, a Bush North Carolina victory would be meaningless. It’s too bad we can’t say the same about the damage he’s done to the country.