If President Bush carries the same states in 2004 that he won in 2000, he will win seven more electoral votes.
That change, a result of a population shift to Republican-friendly states in the South and West in the last several years, means the Republicans have a slight margin of error in 2004 while the Democrats will have to scramble just to pull even.
In 2000, after Florida’s 25 electoral votes were awarded to Mr. Bush, he won the presidency with 271 — 5 more than Al Gore’s 266. Since then 18 states have either won or lost electoral votes, with 7 states that Mr. Bush won last time gaining a total of 11 electoral votes: Florida picked up 2, as did Texas, Georgia and Arizona. North Carolina, Nevada and Colorado each gained 1.
The gain of 11 electoral votes was offset by a loss of 4 from four other Bush states, leaving Mr. Bush with a net gain of 7. The Democrats lost eight electoral votes in six states that went for Mr. Gore and gained one in another, for their net loss of seven.
The shift in the electoral map means that the Republicans have a crucial cushion going into the 2004 presidential campaign. Mr. Bush could hold all the states he won in 2000 except for, say, West Virginia and its five electoral votes, and still win in 2004. The Democrats have no such room for error. They must hold all the states Mr. Gore won and add to them to make up the difference.
“Before a vote is cast, we’ve increased our margin,” Matthew Dowd, chief strategist for Mr. Bush’s campaign, said. “In a race that’s very close, those small readjustments in the electoral map will have significance.”