Dems Like Poll Showing Bush Has Edge Over Kerry

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Democrats aren't fretting about a poll showing that President Bush would get 49 percent and John Kerry 44 percent in northwest Nevada if the election were held today. Just the opposite - they're happy.

"We take that as good news," Sean Smith, Kerry's Nevada communications chief, said Wednesday in discussing the poll conducted shortly after Bush's June 18 visit to Reno.

With independent candidate Ralph Nader in the race, Bush had 48 percent and Kerry 42 percent. Six percent were undecided and Nader had 4 percent.

The poll, conducted by Research 2000 of Rockville, Md., for the Reno Gazette-Journal has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

"This shows how well John Kerry is doing in Nevada," Smith said. "That's the story in the poll - how close Kerry is in northern Nevada."

"The margin is much closer now than it was four years ago," Smith said, adding that the new poll was taken shortly after Bush's Reno visit, where he spoke to nearly 10,000 people, and his percentage "was probably inflated, if anything."

Smith noted that in the 2000 elections Bush was a 57-40 winner over Democrat Al Gore in Washoe and Douglas counties and Carson City, the three counties where more than 600 likely voters were surveyed for the poll.

In 2000, Gore was a 51-45 winner in Clark County, which encompasses the state's biggest city, Las Vegas. But because of the margin Bush had in northwestern Nevada and in outlying areas, he ended up winning the state's four electoral votes 50-46 over Gore. Nevada will have five electoral votes this year.

Bush campaign spokeswoman Tracey Schmitt said that rather than touting poll numbers "the Kerry campaign might be better served explaining his policies, which are wrong for Nevada."

"We've always anticipated a very close election" in Nevada, she added.

Nevada is considered a key battleground state. The state's registered voters are almost evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats, although northwest Nevada has a strong Republican edge.

In Washoe County - the state's second most populous county behind Clark - Republicans have a 54-46 voter registration margin; while in Carson City it's 60-40 and in Douglas County it's 69-31 Republicans over Democrats.