Burns backs Kerry in election nailbiter

AS polling day dawns across the United States, I can't find a Conservative MP who wants President George W. Bush to be re-elected.Take Chelmsford West MP Simon Burns.

AS polling day dawns across the United States, I can't find a Conservative MP who wants President George W. Bush to be re-elected.

Take Chelmsford West MP Simon Burns. Writing in the House Magazine, he says: "President Bush has alienated his own country. America needs a president who will lead the world, not bully it. For the first time in living memory, many people around the world hate America. This is not the fault of the Americans - this is the fault of their President."

And endorsing the Democrat challenger, Mr Burns adds: "John Kerry is an excellent, serious and strong candidate and will make a respected and courageous President. Kerry will lead the world, not alienate it."

No Labour or Liberal Democrat wants another four years of Bush, but the once close ties between the Tories and the Republican Party were damaged in the summer following Michael Howard's attack on Tony Blair's reasons for taking Britain to war in Iraq.

The Republicans could not believe their luck at just how close Mr Blair was prepared to stand next to the President over the war. He's been the main, and certainly the most vociferous supporter, of the President in the world, to the undisguised fury of his own MPs. So any Tory attack on Blair over the war is, by extension, an attack on Bush and has to be resisted and rebuffed by the Bush White House.

The result of the election is on a knife-edge, with Bush slightly ahead 49-47 among likely voters, with Independent Ralph Nader scoring 1%. This Gallup survey, released on Sunday, contrasts to a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll the same day which shows the two candidates tied on 49% among all voters.

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Don't forget, national polling figures don't matter. It is the candidate who reaches 270 votes in the electoral college who wins and it is the state-by-state statistics which have to be digested.

If the election had been held last week, Bush would most probably have won, especially as polls showed him 8% ahead in Florida. Now it is tighter in the so-called "swing" states with Kerry ahead 3 points in Florida - the scene of last time's court battles before Bush was declared winner - and 4% in Ohio, while the President is leading by 2% in Iowa, 4% in Pennsylvania and 8% in Wisconsin.

Vice-President Gore carried both Wisconsin and Pennsylvania for the Democrats in 2000, while no Republican has ever won the White House without winning Ohio.

Bush's approval rating is 51%, one point ahead of the figure considered necessary for an incumbent president seeking re-election. Among voters, the economy is the main concern, following by terrorism, and then Iraq.

Far be it from me to endorse either candidate, but I leave you with this thought. Should Kerry win, he will seek re-election in 2008, thus preventing the ghastly prospect of Hilary Clinton ever becoming the leader of the free world.

If you're preparing to stay up tonight to watch the results unfold, my tip is tune to CNN on digital channel 513. It will beat the BBC, ITV, Sky News, Fox News and even CNBC hands down.

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