Mason-Dixon said 7
POS said 6
This one says 5Bush lead slips from past
Poll shows a tighter race if Kerry picks Edwards
By AMY GARDNER, Staff Writer
If North Carolina elected a president today, President Bush would win -- but not nearly by the margin this Republican-friendly state handed him four years ago, according to a new statewide poll.
In the poll, 47 percent of likely voters chose Bush, a Republican, while 42 percent selected Sen. John Kerry, a Democrat.
The divide would narrow further if Kerry selects Sen. John Edwards as his running mate, according to the survey, conducted June 13-16 for a partnership of The News & Observer, WRAL-TV and WUNC radio.
"Kerry doesn't have to win North Carolina to win the presidency. Everybody knows that. Bush knows that," said Del Ali of Research 2000, the Maryland polling firm that conducted the survey. "But by taking Edwards on the ticket, it really does force Bush to spend time in an area that, frankly, he can't afford to spend time in."
HOW POLL WAS DONE
Republicans and Democrats alike agreed Monday that the numbers are unusually close for North Carolina, which hasn't voted for a Democrat for president since Jimmy Carter in 1976. Four years ago, Bush beat Democrat Al Gore 56 percent to 43 percent.
Where the partisans differed, however, was in what the numbers mean for November.
Democrats believe the unpopularity of the war in Iraq, coupled with the state's continuing economic struggles, turned North Carolina into a battleground state.
"Against an incumbent president in a state that has gone for Republicans every year since 1980, the fact that John Kerry is within five points even without John Edwards on the ticket tells me it's going to be a competitive race," said Ed Turlington of Raleigh, a Democrat and Edwards associate.
While some Republicans agree that Bush's popularity is lagging, they do not think that will remain so through the year. The economy is improving, they say, and they are sure that the scheduled handoff of power in Iraq on June 30 will improve U.S. opinion of events there.
"All the bad publicity in the last two months has certainly had an effect on his popularity," said Jim Culbertson, state finance chairman of the Bush campaign. "But I think this is probably going to be the absolute low point of the campaign."
Particularly noteworthy to Democrats was the fact that Bush's job approval rating has slipped so much in North Carolina -- from 63 percent excellent or good last July to 52 percent today.
Similarly, Bush's vote-getting ability has slid since January, when he was matched separately against three other Democrats -- Edwards, Wesley Clark and Howard Dean -- and never captured less than 53 percent of likely voters' support.
The new poll hints at some of the reasons why:
* On the economy, 56 percent of those polled do not think Bush has done enough to protect furniture, textile and other manufacturing industries from foreign trade.
* On the war in Iraq, 46 percent of those polled approve of Bush's leadership there while 44 percent disapprove. This is a remarkably narrow divide given this state's long-standing support for the military.
The poll reflects interviews with 600 likely voters over four days, and carries a margin of error of 4 percentage points.
"I think what you're seeing in the results is a lack of confidence or at least a softness in the confidence that people have in Bush's ability to govern and lead the country," said Tom Hendrickson, a Democratic fund-raiser from Raleigh.
One wild card that could change presidential results in this state is Ralph Nader, the Green Party nominee in 2000.
According to the poll, the numbers change as follows with Nader on the ballot: Bush 46 percent, Kerry 40 percent and Nader 4 percent.
The Research 2000 North Carolina Poll was conducted for The News & Observer, WRAL-TV and WUNC radio from June 13 through 16. Six hundred residents statewide who vote regularly in elections were interviewed by telephone. Those interviewed were selected by the random variation of the last four digits of telephone numbers. A cross-section of exchanges was used to ensure an accurate reflection of the state. Quotas were assigned to reflect the voter registration by county.
The margin of sampling error, according to standards customarily used by statisticians, is no more than 4 percentage points. This means that there is a 95 percent probability that the true figure would fall within that range if the entire population were sampled. The margin for error is higher for any subgroup, such as respondents of a particular political party or from a specific region.