Bush Leads Kerry in L.A. Times Poll

Bush Edges Ahead of Kerry for the 1st Time (Ronald Brownstein, LAT)

President Bush heads into next week’s Republican National Convention with voters moving slightly in his direction since July amid signs that Sen. John F. Kerry has been nicked by attacks on his service in Vietnam, a Times poll has found. For the first time this year in a Times survey, Bush led Kerry in the presidential race, drawing 49% among registered voters, compared with 46% for the Democrat. In a Times poll just before the Democratic convention last month, Kerry held a 2-percentage-point advantage over Bush. That small shift from July was within the poll’s margin of error. But it fit with other findings in the Times poll showing the electorate edging toward Bush over the past month on a broad range of measures, from support for his handling of Iraq to confidence in his leadership and honesty.

Although a solid majority of Americans say they believe Kerry served honorably in Vietnam, the poll showed that the attacks on the senator from a group of Vietnam veterans criticizing his performance in combat and his antiwar protests at home have left some marks: Kerry suffered small but consistent erosion compared with July on questions relating to his Vietnam experience, his honesty and his fitness to serve as commander in chief.


With independent voters splitting evenly in the survey between the two men, one key to Bush’s tentative new advantage was his greater success at consolidating his base. While 3% of voters who called themselves Republicans said they would vote for Kerry, Bush drew 15% of all Democrats, and 20% of Democrats who consider themselves moderate or conservative, the poll found.


For all the promising signs for Bush, the poll found the president still threatened by a current of uneasiness about the nation’s direction. In the survey, a slight majority of voters said they believed the country was on the wrong track. A majority also said the country was not better off because of his policies and needed to set a new course. And 45% said they believed his policies had hurt rather than helped the economy.

Those results suggested that a substantial part of the electorate remained open to change. But amid the firefight over Kerry’s Vietnam service and uncertainty about his policy plans, the Democrat still has not built a constituency for his candidacy as large as the audience for change in general, the poll suggested. Nearly 1 in 5 voters who say the country needs to change policy direction is not supporting Kerry, according to the poll.

Interesting. Kerry has had a couple of bad weeks and, presumably, Bush will gain further momentum from the convention. Still, absent major new developments, the effects of the Swift Boat controversy should diminish over time. Bush is going to refocus the race and give voters a reason to give him a second term; the convention speech is his next best opportunity.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2004
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. The Times poll demonstrates the poor judgement of basing Kerry’s entire campaign on his brief experiences in Vietnam instead of his more recent, and much more lengthy experience in the U.S. Senate. Only 58 percent of those polled know even a fair amount about the policies Kerry would pursue as president, while nearly four in ten said they knew not much or nothing at all about Kerry’s policies.

  2. Bithead says:

    But WAS that a bad move?

    Yes, he lost because of it, but think; What accomplishments could Kerry list, if he stuck to his Senatorial experience? seems to me the lack of any real accomplishments in the Senate is what drove Kerry to this point.

  3. Dave Schuler says:

    Bithead, while I’m not in the Kerry camp (put me down as “None of the above” right now), I think that criticism of Kerry’s Senate record or lack of a Senate Record isn’t fair. There’s only one metric for the performance of a U. S. Senator: was he re-elected? If the voters in his state believe he’s doing a good job, then he’s doing a good job. And Kerry clearly passes that test.

    The real question IMO is whether a lifetime career in the U. S. Senate qualifies anyone for the Presidency.

  4. Ryan Frank says:

    There’s only one metric for the performance of a U. S. Senator: was he re-elected

    Buwahahahahahahaha.. hehe hold on… Buwahahahahahaha…

    Are we remembering what state this senator is from? A corpse could win that senate seat if it had a (D) next to its name

  5. Mark says:

    “Theres only one metric for the performance of a U. S. Senator: was he re-elected”

    Is that the qualifier for congressmen too? Because if it is, than you must agree that the people in Los Angeles clearly think Maxine Waters is doing a good job, and is therefore worthy of a vote for president should she decide to run.

  6. Blackfive says:

    I dunno, James. I think the veteran anti-Kerry movement is growing. And Kerry has done nothing to stop the hemoraging except talk to Jonathon Stewart.

    We’re talking a five point move here.

    All the guy has to do is apologize for his war crimes rhetoric and a lot of this would just fade away. Instead, the word is spreading about what he did after the war.

  7. Bithead says:

    As I said in my comments on my own blog (Backlinked)This large a sift must by the size of it, include other than undecideds. This is a ground shift. If we accept the numbers, then we must accept that some who were firmly in Kamp Kerry have now shifted away from Kerry.

  8. Bithead says:

    The real question IMO is whether a lifetime career in the U. S. Senate qualifies anyone for the Presidency.

    I’m going to ignore the comment about how he got re-elected, given a doorknob could get re-elected as a Democrat in that state. Though, Kerry has better hair, I suppose.

    But to answer the question I’ve quoted here, that would tend to depend on what the Senator in question had accomplished during that career.

    Specificly, in hte case, John Kerry. I have asked the question repeatedly, and gotten no reply from even Kerry’s most staunch supporters… what has this man accomplished in 20 years of being in the Senate?

    The silence on this point, even from Kerry himself, is telling.