Bush, Kerry in virtual dead heat in Fla., poll shows

ORLANDO, FLA. — ORLANDO, Fla. - President Bush and Sen. John Kerry remain deadlocked in Florida, the state that decided the 2000 election, as the Democratic Party prepares to anoint Kerry as its presidential candidate next week.

Bush is favored by 48 percent of the state's voters compared with Kerry's 46 percent, according to a survey of likely Florida voters, conducted for the Orlando Sentinel and WESH, a Winter Park, Fla., TV station. Ralph Nader drew 2 percent. The poll of 625 likely voters, conducted Monday through Wednesday by Mason-Dixon Polling and Research, had a 4 point margin of error.


In an April poll, the president held an 8-point advantage over Kerry.

Bush holds an advantage among Hispanic voters statewide, 58 percent for Bush, 37 percent for Kerry. But Kerry maintains a large advantage among black voters, with 84 percent to Bush's 5 percent.


For both candidates, the ability to turn out large numbers of these core supporters will be critical to the outcome of the contest in November.

Public confidence in Bush's resolve for the war against terrorism and support for the president's stance on "moral and family issues" are bolstering his re-election chances in a state where voters have grown increasingly critical of the president's handling of the war in Iraq and divided over the economy at home.

At the same time, more Floridians have formed a positive view of Kerry during the four months since he clinched his party's nomination. Yet, after more than $30 million of warring television advertising in Florida, Kerry and Bush also have attracted dangerously high negative ratings among likely voters.

The combination of all this makes for an unbroken struggle for Florida's 27 electoral votes, a tenth of what's needed to win in November.

"At least on paper, Florida is going to be one of those nip-and-tuck battleground states," said pollster Brad Coker.

If Kerry is able to peel away Florida, the president will be forced to claim at least two or three other states Democrats won in 2000, such as Pennsylvania or Wisconsin.

If Bush holds Florida, Kerry will be forced to convert a Bush-leaning state, such as Ohio or Missouri, if he hopes to unseat the president.

The Orlando Sentinel is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.