In the polls

Published September 13, 2004 7:07PM (EDT)

Bush's integrity takes a hit, but rural voters still love him. Plus: Is Daschle in trouble?

A Newsweek nationwide survey released on Monday showed the presidential race tightening again. Bush is still up by six points, but his approval rating has dropped two points below the fifty percent mark. Additionally, "the president's personal ratings on honesty took a hit this week, with 55 percent saying they view Bush as 'honest and ethical' and 40 percent saying they do not. Seven days ago, those numbers were 62 percent and 33 percent."

One interesting conclusion from the poll is that, at least among independents, there isn't much reason for Democrats to hammer away at Bush's disputed National Guard record: Kerry maintains an overwhelming lead on the issue of personal service. "Sixteen percent of [independents] say [Kerry's] service makes them more likely to vote for him, 12 percent it makes them less likely. Bush's military record leaves 19 percent of independent voters saying they are less likely to vote for him (with 4 percent more likely). Meanwhile, a vast majority of the electorate (79 percent) think one or both of the campaigns have been too negative."

On Sunday Zogby announced that Bush has a hefty 52-37 lead among rural voters; in 2000 he carried the demographic by a 59-37 margin. Kerry has lost a lot of ground in this category since mid August, when he trailed Bush by only three points.

There is also a fierce battle underway for control of the Senate. Though the pending retirement of five southern Democrats had many convinced a Democratic majority in the Senate was improbable, it may still be a possibility given the unexpected closeness of a handful of races.

There are 39 Senate races this year, of which roughly a dozen are competitive. One of the most watched races is taking place in South Dakota, where four-term incumbent and Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle is fighting to keep his seat. The Republicans have focused substantial resources on beating him: By the end of June, Republicans had sunk 6.1 million dollars into challenger Jim Thune's campaign. Democrats, fighting hard to keep Daschle's seat, have backed Daschle with 11.8 million.

While the race has been close from the start, the latest numbers don't look good for Daschle. Thune's campaign released an internal poll at the end of August that showed him leading Daschle by 50-48 percent. The Daschle camp promptly announced its suspicions that the numbers were cooked in an attempt to boost Thune's fundraising, but a recent poll noted at suggests they weren't a bluff: A September 8 survey from Rasmussen showed Thune leading 50-47.

By Jeff Horwitz

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