Robert Novak

 WASHINGTON -- Pennsylvania and Ohio in 2004 could assume the role played by Florida in 2000, facing ballot counting difficulties that might delay the national outcome well beyond the Nov. 2 election.

 With John Kerry narrowly ahead in Pennsylvania, the U.S. Department of Justice has asked the courts to postpone the state's absentee voting because of the legal battle over Ralph Nader on the ballot. If the national election is close and if absentee voting in Pennsylvania could affect that state's outcome, it would postpone final presidential results for weeks.

 Ohio is in the rare position of being a presidential tossup that could determine the president. Two-thirds of the state's ballots are punchcards, threatening a long recount.


 Insiders in John Kerry's campaign were furious with vice-presidential candidate John Edwards for saying that "people like Christopher Reeve will get up out of that wheelchair and walk again if Kerry is elected."

 That threw Kerry strategists off stride in trying to exploit the late actor Reeve's opposition to President Bush's ban on government-financed embryonic stem cell research. Although polls show the public on Sen. Kerry's side, he did not raise stem cells in the third debate Wednesday. A reason was the desire not to rehash Edwards's comment.

 In general, Edwards has disappointed since his selection as running mate. He has not helped the ticket appreciably in his own state of North Carolina or elsewhere in the South, and has campaigned less effectively than he had in the Democratic primaries.


 Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry and Senate candidate Betty Castor, both engaged in close races in Florida, are keeping their distance from each other.

 During a rally at Broward Community College last weekend, Sen. Kerry omitted former state education commissioner Castor's name as he called out local Democratic politicians. He ignored shouts of "Betty Castor" from the audience and did not mention the Senate candidate's name at the rally until he accidentally ran across her son, Palm Beach County Prosecutor Frank Castor. Even then, Kerry stopped short of endorsing her.

 Castor features no pictures of Kerry on her Web site and barely mentions his name on the campaign trail. That copies behavior by Senate Democratic candidates in states more conservative than Florida: Alaska, Louisiana, Oklahoma, South Carolina and even South Dakota (where Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle is running for re-election).


Robert Novak

Robert Novak (1931-2009) was a syndicated columnist and editor of the Evans-Novak Political Report.

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