- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 20, 2004

President Bush surged ahead of Sen. John Kerry in new nationwide polls, despite weeks of coordinated attacks by Democrats over increased violence in Iraq and accusations of intelligence shortcomings before September 11, 2001.

The president now leads the Democratic presidential candidate by 6 points, up 2 points from April 8, according to a CNN-USA Today-Gallup survey conducted April 16-18.

Another new poll shows an even more dramatic rise. Mr. Bush went from trailing Mr. Kerry 48 percent to 44 percent in early March to leading his opponent 48 percent to 43 percent, an ABC News-Washington Post survey found.

“Despite pundit speculation that the president had been weakened over the course of the last month, the president’s ballot position has improved, he shows tremendous strength over Kerry on handling terrorism and Iraq,” the Bush-Cheney ‘04 campaign said in an e-mail to reporters.

The Kerry camp responded in an e-mail titled, “Does the Bush Team Really Want to Tout Polls?” saying the numbers point to an “extremely close race.”

In the CNN poll, Mr. Bush was favored 50 percent to 44 percent among likely voters, with independent Ralph Nader at 4 percent. The ABC poll put the spread at 48 percent to 43 percent for Mr. Bush, with Mr. Nader pulling 6 percent.

The ABC poll, conducted April 15-18, also found that by a 2-to-1 margin, Americans have more confidence in the president to handle terrorism than Mr. Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat.

“What’s happened in the last two weeks is that people do believe that the war on terrorism is connected to the war in Iraq,” said Ed Goeas, a Republican pollster.

But the ABC poll also found that just 42 percent of Americans said the nation is headed in the right direction, a 10 percent drop from a month ago. At the same time, 57 percent said the country is headed in the wrong direction — an 11 percent jump.

Mr. Bush and Mr. Kerry are now even when respondents were asked who they trusted more to handle the economy — 47 percent each — according to the ABC poll. In early March, Mr. Kerry had a 12-point lead on that issue.

Both polls have a margin of error of 3 percent.

Mr. Goeas said although some political pundits have viewed the recent surge of violence in Iraq as bad news for Mr. Bush, “in fact, all it did was push people that much more in the direction of Bush.”

For example, the CNN poll found 33 percent of respondents wanted reinforcements sent to Iraq, in spite of the 100 military deaths in Iraq during April. When the same question was asked April 8, only 20 percent agreed.

The number of Americans wanting a withdrawal of U.S. forces has gone down to 21 percent from 28 percent earlier this month.

On intelligence before the September 11 attacks, 62 percent of Americans said the reports that Mr. Bush received before the attacks were too vague to act on.

As for Mr. Kerry, his numbers have been dropping. Forty-nine percent view him as honest and trustworthy, down 10 points from early March, the ABC poll found.

Fifty-nine percent consider Mr. Bush honest and trustworthy, and nearly 66 percent consider him a strong leader, against 52 percent for Mr. Kerry. Four in five in the ABC poll said Mr. Bush takes a position and sticks to it. Half that many said the same about Mr. Kerry.

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