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New poll puts Kerry ahead of Bush
Updated: 2004-10-03 09:38

Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, buoyed by a strong showing in his televised debate with George W. Bush, has recaptured a small lead in their White House race, a Newsweek poll showed.

Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, buoyed by a strong showing in his televised debate with George W. Bush, has recaptured a small lead in their White House race, a Newsweek poll showed. [AFP]
The survey, the first released on the race since the debate Thursday, gave Kerry a 49-46 percent edge over Bush among registered voters in a two-way matchup, and a 47-45 percent margin in a contest also involving independent Ralph Nader.

The poll, conducted Thursday to Saturday among 1,013 registered voters, reversed the findings of the last Newsweek study three weeks ago that put Bush six points up in a three-way race at 49-43 percent.

Bush had been leading since the August 30-September 2 Republican national convention in New York that wiped out a modest Kerry advantage and turned the race the president's way.

The new turnaround in the Newsweek poll, with a margin of error of four points either way, came after the debate at the University of Miami on foreign policy and homeland security which the magazine said Kerry clearly won.

Its poll showed 61 percent of those who watched the showdown thought the Massachusetts senator came off better and 19 percent felt the Republican president had prevailed.

The Democrats have hailed the debate as a turning point in the campaign after weeks of Republican attacks on Kerry's command capacities, Vietnam war experiences and record as an alleged flip-flopper that had him on the ropes.

Overall, Bush held a 52-40 percent edge on voter confidence in his ability to deal with terrorism and a 49-44 percent advantage on Iraq. But Kerry appeared to make inroads on the leadership question in the debate.

Forty-seven percent of viewers thought Kerry came across as a strong leader; 44 percent said Bush did.

Karl Rove, political adviser to Bush, said he thinks the presidential contest will be close.

"I think the election is going to tighten just because of the nature of the contest," he said. "All along we believed that it was going to be a very close election."

Earlier Saturday, Bush claimed Kerry would put US national security in the hands of foreign leaders, and Kerry slammed huge White House tax cuts as a gift for the rich.

The rivals revved up the rhetoric which erupted in their televised head-to-head clash on Thursday night, ahead of a potentially decisive 12 days which will see two more presidential contests and a vice presidential debate.

The president refused to let Kerry move the argument on from questions of statesmanship to bread-and-butter economic issues, where he is considered more vulnerable.

He lambasted what Republicans are calling the "Kerry doctrine" after his challenger said Thursday that US action abroad should be put to a "global test" to prove to Americans and the world that it is legitimate.

"Senator Kerry's approach to foreign policy would give foreign governments veto power over our national security decisions.

"I'll continue to work every day with our friends and allies for the sake of freedom and peace," said Bush, who pioneered a preemptive US policy to meet global threats at a rally in Columbus, Ohio.

"But our national security decisions will be made in the Oval Office, not in foreign capitals," he said.

Kerry has repeatedly vowed not to give foreign states veto power over US military action -- indeed, it was one of the first things he said in Thursday's debate. His campaign staff says the Bush team took Kerry's remark out of context in a sign of desperation.

The veteran Massachusetts senator, hoping to move out of Bush's slipstream in opinion polls, linked what he said was Bush's stubborn failure to change course in Iraq to his style of economic policy.

"It's not just on Iraq. Over the past four years, he has made a series of serious misjudgments here at home, choices that have hurt middle-class families," Kerry told supporters at a school in Orlando, Florida.

"This is a man that can't see a problem, and we need new leadership to take this country in a different direction," said Kerry, styling himself as a champion of Americans struggling with health care premiums and college fees.

Bush and Kerry will have another debate in St. Louis, Missouri, on October 8, before a final clash in the southwestern state of Arizona on October 13. Their running mates will face off in a vice presidential clash on Tuesday.

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