In the polls

By Jeff Horwitz
Published August 24, 2004 7:17PM (EDT)

A new Zogby poll commissioned by the Wall Street Journal shows Kerry ahead in 14 of 16 battleground states, giving him a commanding lead in electoral college projections.

"Adding the 152 votes from the 14 states that Mr. Kerry leads in the latest poll gives him a total of 324 electoral votes. (That's his highest total yet in our analyses of Zogby's polls, topping the previous high of 322 electoral votes that he had in on July 12.) Mr. Bush's two states have 25 electoral votes and give him a total of 214."

The catch, however, is that most of Kerry's margins are weak at best: "All told, Mr. Kerry's lead is outside the margin in just three states -- Pennsylvania, Oregon and Washington -- and the president in just Ohio. If one considers only those results that are outside the margins of error, Mr. Kerry would cling to a lead of just 211-209 -- with 118 votes still up for grabs.

"In two crucial states -- Florida and Missouri -- Mr. Kerry's lead is tiny -- less than a percentage point. If both of those states, which have moved back and forth between the candidates over the course of Zogby's polling were to go Mr. Bush's way in the end, Mr. Kerry's lead would shrink to 286-252."

Today's Gallup poll shows a similar dead heat in Florida, with Nader's candidacy only slightly affecting the race.

"According to the Aug. 20-22 survey, Bush currently leads Kerry among likely voters in Florida by a slight, but not statistically significant margin: 48% to 46%. Independent candidate Ralph Nader, who is waiting for papers to be filed on his behalf by the Florida Reform Party to be included on the Florida election ballot, garners 2%.

"When Nader voters are asked whom they would choose in the event their candidate does not earn a spot on the Florida ballot, Kerry picks up one point, making the race virtually tied at 48% for Bush and 47% for Kerry."

Bush owes his slight lead in the Sunshine state to overwhelming support from his base, particularly in more conservative Central and Northern Florida. "The percentage of Republicans supporting Bush (90%) is higher than the percentage of Democrats supporting Kerry (84%). But that advantage is precarious because political independents favor Kerry by a rather strong margin: 51% to 36%."

A footnote to the poll is that while Hurricane Charley may have savaged Florida last week, it certainly didn't do the President any harm: 71% of those polled approved of how he responded to the damage, and only 13% disapproved.

Finally, a Rocky Mountain poll published in the Arizona Republic shows Bush losing his once-comfortable lead in Maricopa County, Arizona. The reason that Bush/Cheney '04 ought to be worried is that the traditionally Republican-leaning county is home to Phoenix -- and 60 percent of the state's voters.

"After consistently chalking up 12-point leads over Kerry in three Rocky Mountain Polls since April, the president scored only a 5-point advantage, 46-41 percent, in a mid-August telephone survey of 452 voters, Earl de Berge, research director for Phoenix-based Behavior Research Center, reported Monday. Of those polled, 13 percent were undecided. The margin of error was 4.7 percentage points.

Without a strong showing in the county, the race could well be Kerry's to win: "The narrowness of the results could mean that the Nov. 2 presidential election will depend on Democratic-leaning Pima County and rural areas."

Jeff Horwitz

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