A poll released this afternoon by Time magazine should contribute to the next round of debate hype: After surveying 886 likely voters, the magazine calls the race a tie at 45 percent, with Nader hanging in there at 3 percent. A week and a half ago, Time's likely voters preferred Bush by a 6-point margin.
Since the first debate focused on foreign policy, Kerry has made inroads into the president's advantage on national security, though he still lags. Those polled by Time thought Bush would make a better commander-in-chief by a 51-42 margin -- still substantial, but half the 16-point margin Bush held before the first presidential debate.
The poll also reflects a key change in sentiment: More voters, it suggests, may now be leaning toward Kerry for reasons other than that he is anybody but Bush. On being "likeable," a key strength for Bush in 2000, Bush now trails Kerry, 70-65. Women in particular appear more fond of Kerry: "Females now support Kerry over Bush by 12 points, 50%-38%. Pre-debate, the TIME Poll found women split evenly, 44% Kerry, 43% Bush."
The focus of the second debate favors Kerry; while his advantage on domestic issues had recently waned, according to the Time poll, "Kerry again leads Bush on handling the economy (49%-42%), health care (52%-36%) and understanding peoples' needs (49%-40%)."