There is some debate over how much influence state ballot measures have in presidential elections. In general, voters are drawn to the polls more by the presidential contest than by ballot initiatives. Still, experts say Bush got a boost four years ago, particularly in Ohio.
While conservatives have struggled this year, the left has had some success.
A renewable-energy measure could generate interest in the battleground state of Missouri. In Michigan, another swing state, voters are likely to decide on a measure that would reverse a state ban on stem-cell research.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday, July 30, 2008 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 52 words Type of Material: Correction
State propositions: An article in Tuesday's Section A about conservative efforts to place propositions on state ballots said a measure pushed by initiative promoter Ward Connerly to limit affirmative action in government had stalled in Nebraska. Such a measure stalled in Oklahoma, but one is set to appear on the Nebraska ballot.
Perhaps most significantly, the Service Employees International Union, one of Obama's biggest backers, spent $1.4 million to place a measure on Ohio's ballot that would require employers to provide paid sick days to workers. Obama has endorsed legislation on the issue; McCain opposes it.
"We intend to make this a defining issue in the fall," said Brian Dunn, who is managing the campaign for the measure.
In addition, the left's success and the right's troubles may also stem from one of the newest weapons in either party's political arsenal.
The Ballot Initiative Strategy Center, funded by billionaire George Soros and organized labor, has challenged conservative measures in court and has recruited people to urge voters not to sign petitions.
Those so-called blocking efforts have flummoxed Ward Connerly, the Sacramento businessman who led efforts to end affirmative action in California.
Connerly organized petition drives in five states, including the one in Colorado, but was thwarted in two, including Nebraska and the swing state of Missouri.
He blames foes who circulated competing petitions and harassed his signature-gatherers.
"These blockers are despicable," Connerly said.