A flurry of poll results released today show Bush holding a modest lead both nationally and in a few key battleground states. While the TIME and Newsweek polls released after the Republican convention may have overstated the margin, three national polls released today give Bush a thin to moderate edge over Kerry.
According to CBS's poll, the Bush/Cheney ticket holds a 47-42 lead among registered voters, and for the first time since last spring, Bush leads among independents. "The Republicans gain in voter support comes about through two changes that appear to have happened at that Convention -- a major improvement in the Presidents approval ratings on handling terrorism (already the area where he scored best), and significant /negative/ changes in perceptions of the Democratic nominee."
FOX's poll, which sampled likely voters, gives Bush a smaller lead, but concurs with CBS on improvements in the president's image: "Bush receives the backing of 47 percent of likely voters and Kerry 45 percent. When independent candidate Ralph Nader is included the results are essentially unchanged: Nader three percent, Bush 47 percent and Kerry 43 percent... Compared to earlier polling, the president made gains this week on several key attributes, including being a 'strong leader' (up seven points) and 'honest and trustworthy' (up six points)."
If you're looking for certainty in poll results, Fox's and CBS' explanations of Bush's lead are probably as close as you're going to get. Nearly every poll published since the Republican convention shows Bush consolidating his lead in the "strong leader" and "handling of terrorism" categories, with Kerry taking moderate losses in the same.
The third national poll, commissioned by the Economist, shows Bush leading by the smallest margin, only a single point. But oddly enough, the magazine is the only one of the three news sources to suggest the barn door might be swinging open for a Bush victory.
Looking at recent Rasmussen, Zogby, Gallup and other polls, the Economist sees evidence that Bush is gaining ground on Kerry in the key demographics of independents, voters with "some" college education and non-Latino Catholics: "Looking at the horse-race numbers, the Kerry campaign may feel anxious; looking at these, alarm would be more justified.
"Until now, the contest has been tied. The question from the polling evidence is whether that may be beginning to change. A big Bush victory, while still not the most likely outcome, has become a real possibility."
Beyond the national polls, there's movement in state by state polling, most of which is very good for Bush. The Republicans hold formidable leads in Ohio and Missouri, according to a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll. Ohio, where Kerry led by six points in July, now favors Bush by nine. And Missouri now gives Bush a 55-41 advantage, a margin that's arguably large enough to push the traditionally bellwether state out of the battleground category.
Finally, the Newark Star-Ledger, which reported Kerry holding a twenty-point New Jersey lead in July, found that lead to have dwindled to four points after the Republican Convention. It's bad news for Democrats if New Jersey, a blue state for the last three elections, should turn out to even be competitive this year.