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Bush pulls ahead of Kerry in polls
Updated: 2004-10-18 16:15

A series of post-debate polls have given George W. Bush a lead of two-to-eight percentage points over Democratic nominee John Kerry as the two men head into the final 15 days of the presidential campaign.

The Democratic campaign yesterday sought to discredit the Gallup survey done for CNN and USA Today showing the U.S. president with an eight-point lead among likely voters.

It also released its own numbers, showing Kerry with a three-point lead nationally, but more significantly, with leads in the battleground states which are expected to decide the race Nov. 2.

If the Gallup numbers are accurate, it tilts the race back to pre-debate levels, wipes out the gains made by Kerry after the first confrontation in Coral Gables, Fla., and throws into question whether any of the heavily watched debates — which Kerry was widely perceived to have won — had a lasting impact on the campaign.

Gallup showed Bush with 52 per cent support among likely voters with Kerry at 44 per cent, his highest level of support since Kerry won the Democratic nomination last March and a major shift from a week ago when Gallup had the Massachusetts senator a percentage point ahead of the president.

The numbers narrow to a three-point Bush lead when it tallies response from registered voters.

The Gallup surveys have consistently shown much more volatility than other polls over the past weeks.

Three other polls showed Bush with a lead of two-to-four points, within the statistical margin of error.

Polling done for Time magazine and a Reuters/Zogby poll showed Bush with a two-point lead, while an ABC News poll gave Bush a four-point bulge.

The Zogby daily tracking survey showed Kerry gaining on Bush, and pollster John Zogby said that was because of Kerry's widely praised debate performances.

Other numbers indicated the opposite — showing voters thought Kerry won the debates, but still rank Bush as a stronger leader during a time of war and vigilance against another terror strike on U.S. soil.

"They're consistent," Ed Gillespie, chair of the Republican National Committee said of the polls on CNN.

In the debates, he said, people saw Kerry as someone who has a long record of voting for higher taxes and a president who shows resolve in trying circumstances.

But Kerry's campaign could point to some encouraging numbers, particularly a Washington Post tracking poll showing Kerry with a 10-point lead over Bush in 13 states, which could decide the election.

In a conference call with reporters yesterday, Kerry spokesperson Joe Lockhart took direct aim at the Gallup poll when questioned by a USA Today reporter.

"This race is unusual for its lack of volatility," Lockhart said.

"Your polls have shown 20-points-plus swings and it is just not credible."

The Democracy Corps poll by Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg showed Kerry strengthening his base, particularly among African-Americans and union households.

It also showed for the first time, Greenberg said, the same depth of commitment to their candidates among members of both parties with Bush taking 93 per cent of those who are registered Republicans and Kerry taking 92 per cent of the registered Democrats.

It was the first time his polling showed less than 10 per cent of Democrats willing to back the incumbent president, he said.

Greenberg, however, sounded a note of caution on all the polling released over the past 48 hours, because weekend polling is historically volatile. He said Friday evenings are the worst period of the week to find willing respondents at home.

Time's survey found almost one-in-three voters felt the debates made them more likely to back Kerry and registered voters gave Kerry the overall debate victory by a margin of 57 per cent to 27 per cent.

In the key question of approval, Bush dipped below the 50 per cent threshold, to 49 per cent in the Time survey, the second week in a row in which he has slipped beneath an approval level which many pollsters feel to be the most significant indicator of voting-day support.

In the battle for newspaper endorsements, Kerry also had a clear edge, winning 27 of them yesterday, including the influential New York Times.

Bush won nine Sunday endorsements, including the Chicago Tribune, the Arizona Republic and the Dallas Morning News, in his home state of Texas.

Kerry also won the backing of the largest newspaper in Massachusetts, the Boston Globe.

Although The Times endorsement was not surprisingly given the newspaper's consistent criticism of the Bush administration, it featured some very forceful language. It said Kerry has shown qualities which would make him "a great chief executive" and has shown himself to be a man with a strong "moral core."

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