Two new polls show John Kerry charging ahead after his strong performance in last week's debate: A Newsweek poll of registered voters puts the Kerry-Edwards ticket up 47-45 in a three-way race (Nader still scratches out two percent in the three-way; without him it's 49-46, Kerry over Bush). And while Gallup still gives Bush a two-point lead among the registered voters it sampled, Kerry has made up a lot of ground: Gallup's poll from the week before put Bush in the lead 53-42 -- now it's a slim 49-47 lead in Bush's favor (well within the margin of error).
Newsweek was among those criticized after the Republican Convention for a sampling that included more Republican than Democratic voters. With the latest poll that's changed; Democrats sampled outnumbered Republicans 38-33. Larry Husick, project manager for the Newsweek poll, attributes that fluctuation to some voters' tendency to identify with party momentum. "If you asked how many people were Cardinals fans at the beginning of the season you might get eight percent," he tells War Room. "But if the Cardinals win that season, it might be 15 percent by the end."
Not surprisingly, the Newsweek poll concludes that Kerry's debate performance (perhaps combined with Bush's lack of one) made him a lot more likeable. With Kerry's favorability rating around 35 percent last month, the Drudge report equated the senator's public profile with that of a fallen Martha Stewart, as well as Joseph McCarthy and Herbert Hoover. It makes one wonder who Drudge would compare Bush to today, with more voters having "a favorable impression" of Kerry (52-40) than President Bush (49-46).
Even so, while the majority of voters Newsweek surveyed gave Kerry the lead overall and like him more, they still don't think he's a winner. Asked who was more likely to win in November, 55 percent said Bush, and only 29 percent said Kerry.
Finally, the Newsweek poll suggests that, with Friday's debate on the economy approaching, voters are a lot more open to John Kerry's economic plan than that of the incumbent. Fifty-two percent trust Kerry to successfully handle the economy, while only 39 percent trust Bush to do the same.
Democrats also made gains in recent senate polling. In three of the hottest races -- Alaska, Florida and Oklahoma -- Democrats lead by six points or more, and in another four very competitive states -- Louisiana, North Carolina, South Dakota and Colorado -- lead by smaller margins.
It's striking that nearly all of the tightest races are in states that are unabashedly Republican. The conventional wisdom was that the retirement of five southern Democratic Senators and the nomination of a northeastern Democrat would add up to a Republican Senate windfall. Part of the Dems' strategy appears to be distancing themselves from their own presidential nominee. Tom Daschle's campaign in South Dakota has run commercials showing the senate minority leader embracing President Bush, while Inez Tenenbaum's campaign slogan, "An independent voice for South Carolina," may only be a slightly more subtle way of saying "I'm not with John Kerry."