President outpolls Kerry in 3 key Midwestern states

Bush gains, though voters voice doubt about policies

August 27, 2004|By Ronald Brownstein and Kathleen Hennessey | Ronald Brownstein and Kathleen Hennessey,LOS ANGELES TIMES

WASHINGTON - President Bush has moved past Sen. John F. Kerry in three of the most hotly contested Midwestern battleground states despite continued doubts about the country's direction and the president's policies, new Los Angeles Times polls have found.

According to the surveys, Bush has opened leads within the margin of error in Ohio, Wisconsin and Missouri - states at the top of both campaigns' priority lists.

In Missouri, Bush leads among registered voters 46 percent to 44 percent; in Wisconsin, he leads 48 percent to 44 percent; and in Ohio, the president holds a 49 percent to 44 percent advantage, the surveys found.

Like a national Times poll released Wednesday, the surveys underscore the difficulty Kerry has had converting a general desire for change into support for his candidacy. The Massachusetts senator trails Bush though a majority of voters in all three states said the country is not better off because of Bush's policies and "needs to move in a new direction."

But while Bush is drawing support from virtually all the voters who back his policy direction, Kerry is attracting only about four-fifths or fewer of the voters in the three states who said they want a new course.

Voters such as Barb Chiamulera - a special education teacher from Florence, Wis., who responded to the poll - remain torn between disappointment in Bush and uncertainty about Kerry.

"It seems like we're kind of at a dead end," she said of Bush's presidency. "But I just feel I don't know Kerry's philosophy as well as I should. I still don't really feel like he's come up with any definite plan for ... how he would change things."

The Times Poll contacted 507 registered voters in Ohio, 580 in Missouri and 512 in Wisconsin from Aug. 21-24. It has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4 percentage points for each state.

In 2000, Al Gore carried Wisconsin by fewer than 6,000 votes; Bush won Missouri by almost 80,000 votes and Ohio by almost 167,000 votes.

Times polls in June showed Kerry and Bush tied in Wisconsin, Kerry holding a statistically insignificant one-point advantage in Ohio, and the president leading 48 percent to 42 percent in Missouri. Compared with those numbers, the race has tightened somewhat in Missouri and edged slightly toward Bush in Wisconsin and Ohio.

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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