Bush Leads Kerry Going Into Debate

Bush Leads Kerry Going Into Debate (Ronald Brownstein, LAT)

President Bush has a 5-percentage-point lead over Sen. John F. Kerry among likely voters, but nearly one-fifth say the candidate debates that begin tonight could affect their decision, a new Times poll has found. Bush leads his Democratic challenger 51% to 46% among likely voters in the survey. With both men holding at least 90% of the voters from their own party, the GOP president has seized the advantage by moving ahead among several key swing voter groups that both sides covet, including independents, suburbanites and married women.

Bush still faces widespread doubts about many of his central initiatives. A narrow majority says the situation in Iraq was “not worth” the war, and a solid plurality believes that the president’s policies have hurt, rather than helped, the economy. These doubts could provide the senator from Massachusetts with openings in the campaign’s final weeks. But with Bush receiving strong support for his response to the terrorist threat, his overall approval rating remains above 50% — traditionally the dividing line between incumbents who win reelection and those who don’t. And likely voters give Bush leads over Kerry on critical personal attributes, such as strength of leadership, honesty and sharing their moral values.

Among all registered voters, the president leads by 4 percentage points, 49% to 45%. Among likely and registered voters, the percentage of respondents who say they are undecided is small: 3% among the likely voters and 6% among the registered group. Adding independent candidate Ralph Nader to the mix leaves the results virtually unchanged: Bush’s lead over Kerry stands at 6 points among likely voters and 4 points among registered voters.


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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.