Convention brings Kerry poll bounce over Bush

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The Independent US

John Kerry enjoyed the first signs of a post-convention bounce yesterday as a Newsweek poll taken on Thursday and Friday ­ both before and after his generally well-reviewed nomination acceptance speech ­ showed him leading President George Bush by 49 per cent to 42.

John Kerry enjoyed the first signs of a post-convention bounce yesterday as a Newsweek poll taken on Thursday and Friday ­ both before and after his generally well-reviewed nomination acceptance speech ­ showed him leading President George Bush by 49 per cent to 42.

That represented a four-point swing from the previous Newsweek poll, which had the Massachusetts Senator leading the president by 47 per cent to 44. And Mr Kerry's lead is likely to extend further as more polls are published in the next two to three days.

Both candidates yesterday took their campaigns to Pennsylvania, one of the crucial battleground states that could decide November's election. Mr Kerry and his running mate, John Edwards, stopped off in Harrisburg, the state capital, en route to Pittsburgh promising new jobs and a cleaner environment ­ key issues in cities with a long-standing industrial base eroded by globalisation. Mr Bush, who intends to campaign hard in the weeks leading up to his party convention in New York at the end of this month, was also due to speak in Pittsburgh yesterday.

The Newsweek poll offered clues but no definitive data on how much the Democratic National Convention in Boston had helped Mr Kerry. Respondents polled on Thursday, before his speech, gave him a two-point lead over Mr Bush (47 per cent to 45 per cent). Those polled on Friday night, 24 hours after he set the Fleet Centre alight with his message of optimism and strength, gave him a 10-point lead (50 per cent to 40 per cent).

Since campaigning rules set the respective party conventions as a cut-off date for certain kinds of funding, Mr Bush will enjoy a financial advantage for the rest of August. The Republicans plan to spend up to $100m (£55m) on television advertising in that time to try to deaden any Kerry bounce. Mr Kerry, meanwhile, has just $75m to see him through to election day on 2 November.

The rush towards states such as Pennsylvania and Ohio, where Mr Bush also made stops yesterday, shows that both parties know that for all the rousing applause there is to be received from their respective conventions, it is not the cheering delegates who will decide this election. Rather it is that increasingly small sliver of undecided voters living in states that could be won by either party who must be won over.

Kristin Peterson, 53, an Ohio delegate from the college town of Oberlin, summed up this reality as she was waiting for her plane home at Boston's Logan International Airport on Friday afternoon. She said: "We are the choir. We're not the ones that really count."

At the last election the Democrats won Pennsylvania and its 21 electoral college votes by a 15-point margin but the Republicans have made it a top priority for this year. Mr Bush has made more than 30 visits to the state. Ohio, with 20 college votes, was won by the Republicans in 2000 by 4 per cent. It is a true indicator, the winning candidate has taken the state in every election since 1960.

Mr Bush was yesterday due to speak in the city of Canton, which Mr Kerry has highlighted in his campaign speeches through the story of a steelworker, Dave McCune, whose job has been shipped overseas. "What does it mean in America today when Dave McCune, a steelworker that I met in Canton, Ohio, saw his job sent overseas," Mr Kerry asked during his convention address, "and the equipment in his factory was literally unbolted, crated up and shipped thousands of miles away along with that job?"

Renee Lipson, another Ohio delegate who was flying home from Boston on Friday, believed that Mr Kerry had done enough in his speech to win over swing voters in her state.

"He spoke to the issues that matter to middle America," she said. "He talked about health care, jobs, outsourcing. There was a lot about leadership and his war record but he also said we should build a coalition. These are everybody's issues."

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