Florida May Yet Decide 2004 Presidential Race

Bush Squeaked By in 2000; New Numbers Favor Kerry

James Wise, mayor of Marianna, Fla., at the town's Caravan Restaurant.

James Wise, mayor of Marianna, Fla., talks with friends at the town's Caravan Restaurant. Tracy Wahl, NPR News hide caption

itoggle caption Tracy Wahl, NPR News
Florida resident Betty Rouse at Glenn's Bar-b-que in Panama City.

Florida resident Betty Rouse at Glenn's Bar-b-que in Panama City. Tracy Wahl, NPR News hide caption

itoggle caption Tracy Wahl, NPR News
James Wise, mayor of Marianna, Fla., talks with friends at the town's Caravan Restaurant

James Wise, mayor of Marianna, Fla., talks with friends at the town's Caravan Restaurant Tracy Wahl, NPR News hide caption

itoggle caption Tracy Wahl, NPR News

The 2004 presidential campaign is being fought in a small number of swing states. Of these, one of the closest and most important is Florida. With more than five million people voting, the Florida recount in the 2000 election came down to 500 votes. So every shift is seismic in this state, and the campaigns are paying careful attention to its voters.

New numbers out this weekend from a New Hampshire polling firm, American Research Group, show an up tick in Sen. John Kerry's fortunes. He's now at 50 percent in Florida — seven points ahead of President Bush.

NPR's Linda Wertheimer made a visit earlier this week to the Florida Panhandle, an area that was solidly for Bush in the last election. From a barbecue joint and a book club in Panama City, to a retired businessmen's breakfast club in Marianna, she talks with voters about what issues are important to them, what their doubts are, and who they'll cast their vote for in the 2004 presidential election.

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