New Poll Shows Bush and Kerry in Dead Heathttp://cnn.netscape.cnn.com/news/story.jsp?&idq=/ff/story/0002/20041004/0918042742.htm&photoid=20041002JEY05D&floc=NW_1-T
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Bush is now in a statistical dead heat with Democratic challenger Sen. John Kerry for the Nov. 2 election, in a tightening of the race after the first debate last week, a poll on Monday showed.
The USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll of likely voters taken between Friday and Sunday found Bush's 8 point lead over Kerry in a Sept. 26 poll had evaporated and both candidates would get 49 percent of the vote if the election were held today.
Independent Ralph Nader got 1 percent, compared to 3 percent in the previous survey.
It was the first poll to show Bush took a hit following last Thursday's debate which focused on foreign policy and national security and drew an audience of at least 62.5 million, according to Nielsen ratings.
Kerry was judged the winner of the debate by more than two to one -- 57 percent to 25 percent -- of likely voters in the poll. Voters also thought the Democrat expressed himself more clearly and he was more intelligent, according to the poll.
USA Today said one reason for Kerry's rise was growing unease about Iraq, which had emerged as a more powerful issue in the campaign -- equal to the economy and only second to terrorism.
The latest poll found Bush's previous 14-point advantage on the handling of Iraq was slashed by half to 7 points, but the incumbent continued to have an advantage in his handling of terrorism, according to USA Today.
The poll found Kerry reclaimed his advantage on the economy and more voters thought the Democrat would handle the economy better than Bush.
Kerry also convinced more voters he had a clear plan for Iraq, with 41 percent of likely voters saying he had a plan, up from 30 percent before the debate. For Bush, the figure slipped to 49 percent from 52 percent.
The margin of error for the poll of 772 likely voters was plus or minus four percentage points.