Poll: Bush, Reid Enjoy Lead in Nevada

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President Bush enjoys a clear lead over Democrat John Kerry in Nevada, according to a statewide poll out Sunday.

The same Las Vegas Review-Journal poll found Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., with a wide lead over leading Republican challenger Richard Ziser.

Bush had the backing of 49 percent of those surveyed and Kerry 38 percent in the state narrowly won by Bush in 2000. Nevada has five electoral votes.

Independent candidate Ralph Nader had 4 percent and 9 percent were undecided.

Reid, the Senate's second-ranking Democrat, was leading Ziser by 35 percentage points - 61 to 26, according to the poll.

The poll of 625 registered voters was conducted March 15-17 by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

Brad Coker, managing director of the Washington, D.C., polling firm, attributed Bush's early lead to his heavy television advertising and Nevada's GOP registration edge.

Republicans hold a 355,116 to 343,679 statewide edge over Democrats.

"He's really held the Republican base together," Coker said. "I think you're seeing some impact from his commercials."

Gov. Kenny Guinn also attributed Bush's showing to the state's good economy. Nearly 70,000 jobs have been created in Nevada since Bush took office, he said.

"We've bounced back strongly since 9-11," said Guinn, a Republican.

David Damore, a political science professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, said he was surprised by Kerry's double-digit deficit.

"He's got his work cut out for him here," said Damore, a Democrat.

But Kerry spokeswoman Laura Capps said he's in a "strong position" despite the poll results. She said Bush's decision to recommend southern Nevada's Yucca Mountain as the nation's nuclear waste dump would be a major issue.

Bush spokeswoman Tracey Schmitt said while the campaign is optimistic about its chances in Nevada - considered a battleground state - a close race is anticipated.

"We will not be taking any votes for granted," Schmitt said.

Bush's approval ratings in Nevada have dropped since a July 2003 Review-Journal poll.

Forty-eight percent of those surveyed last week had a favorable opinion of Bush compared to 37 percent unfavorable. The earlier poll showed Bush with 57 percent favorable and 23 percent unfavorable.

The July 2003 poll also found 51 percent of 625 voters surveyed would vote for Bush, while 21 percent would vote for the Democratic nominee.

Voter opinions of Kerry were split between favorable and unfavorable, 35 percent and 36 percent respectively, the new poll found. Another 27 percent have a neutral opinion of him.

In the Senate race, the poll found 76 percent of voters did not even recognize Ziser's name, despite his leadership of the initiative drive banning gay marriage in Nevada.

The only other Republican who has announced plans to file against Reid is disabled veteran Kenneth Wegner.

Political analysts said Reid's $6 million-plus war chest and top Senate leadership position make his re-election chances excellent.

"I don't think that there is any compelling reason to make a change in the U.S. Senate," said Republican political consultant Sig Rogich. "And I think Nevadans as a whole are going to be very reluctant to give up that seniority and that position of power for no apparent reason."

Eric Herzik, a political scientist at the University of Nevada, Reno, said Ziser can't win.

"Ziser's in so much trouble, you're going to see a lot of big name registered Republicans openly embracing Reid," said Herzik, a Republican.

But Ziser predicted he would surge in the polls.

"Obviously, the election isn't today, and we haven't been out there campaigning on the issues," Ziser said.