View Full Version : Polls say Bush has slight lead as Kerry gains

10-18-2004, 12:45 AM
New polling says US President George W Bush is barely ahead in the overall race for the White House while Democrat challenger John Kerry is gaining support in some key states with just over two weeks before the November 2 ballot.

A flurry of weekend surveys provide mixed news for the two candidates and point to a possible nerve-wracking finish just like the cliffhanger of 2000.

In his latest jibe against Bush, Kerry headed to Florida and sounded a warning to Americans on social security, saying Bush planned to cut benefits and privatise the scheme.

Florida - is home to millions of retirees - and was the centre of a recount controversy which went Bush's way in 2000.

It remains a critical battleground this time around.

Bush, whose campaign team dismissed Kerry's latest claims on social security as "preposterous", visited Florida on Sunday.

The state's 27 electoral votes will likely be key to who wins the November 2 election.

All three nationwide polls gave Bush a small but statistically insignificant lead after three televised debates that boosted Kerry's ratings.

The Washington Post had Bush up 50 per cent to 47 per cent; Time magazine, Zogby and Rasmussen pollsters put the edge at two points.

Newsweek magazine had Bush ahead 48-46 per cent among registered voters and 50-44 per cent among likely voters.

The difference between registered and likely voters suggested the size of the turnout could decide the outcome. Kerry is likely to benefit from high numbers. The Newsweek poll had Kerry leading 57-36 per cent among self-described new voters.

Bush held an edge in voter confidence in his ability to steer the country through perilous times and deal with terrorism while the Massachusetts senator retained his leads on the economy, jobs and health care.

But in a worrying sign for Bush since the debates, both Time and Newsweek put his overall job approval rating at below 50 per cent, historically a bad omen for presidents seeking re-election.

Prospects were also looking brighter for Kerry in the race to piece together a majority of the decisive 538 electoral votes apportioned among the states and earned in separate, mostly winner-take-all, contests.

Bush won in 2000 by five electors while losing the popular tally to then Democrat vice president Al Gore by more than half a million votes. The electoral chessboard looked every bit as tight this year.

A Rasmussen tracking poll conducted among 16 "battleground" states had Kerry up 48-46 per cent, reversing a similar Bush margin a week ago just before the third and final debate.

A Zogby poll also showed 66 per cent of undecided voters giving the president a negative rating. Eighteen per cent said he deserved to be returned for a second four-year term and 39 per cent said no.

Kerry seemed to gaining ground among 10 closely watched states with a total of 118 electors: Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Several analysts suggested that whoever wins two of three races out of the southeastern state of Florida (27 electors), Ohio (20) in the Midwest and Pennsylvania (21) in the East, would likely be elected.

All are too close to call. But the Rasmussen survey in Florida, which handed Bush the presidency four years ago after a bitterly disputed recount, had Kerry cutting a six-point deficit to two points in the last week.

In Ohio, which no Republican has ever lost and still captured the White House, Kerry had narrowed a four-point Bush edge to a single point, according to Rasmussen.

The survey also showed the Democrat apparently firming up his base in Ohio, a state stricken by the loss of jobs which may give him his best chance of snatching a state from the Republican column.

The number of Kerry supporters who said they were "certain" of their choice rose in the last two weeks from 79 to 88 per cent, Rasmussen said, while for Bush the figure was stable at 92 per cent.

Bush has set his sights on Pennsylvania, which has gone Democratic in the last three presidential elections, and has stopped there during the campaign more than any state other than his home of Texas.

Independent candidate Ralph Nader was still a wild card, with polls showing he had the capacity to draw crucial votes from Kerry. Democrats accuse Nader of siphoning off key votes in Florida four years ago to hand the victory to Bush.