Kerry takes shock lead in first poll after TV debate

'The American dream is on the ballot a month from today' says newly revitalised Democrat challenger

The race for the White House appeared to have been upended last night after a first national poll taken in the wake of Thursday night's first televised presidential debate showed the Democrat challenger, John Kerry, retaking a narrow lead over the incumbent, George Bush.

The Newsweek poll found John Kerry and his running mate, John Edwards, with a small advantage of 47 per cent to 45 per cent over Mr Bush and Dick Cheney, if it was a three-way contest with Ralph Nader. Without Mr Nader, an independent, the gap grows to 49 per cent versus 46 per cent.

Democrats will delay rejoicing until they see other polling results. The new lead is within the statistical margin of error. Yet Newsweek reinforced instant polls taken on Thursday suggesting that viewers thought Mr Kerry had out-performed the President. Among those who watched the face-off, 61 per cent said Mr Kerry was the winner while 19 per cent said the same for Mr Bush.

Even before the new numbers came out, there was an unmistakable tone of confidence in Mr Kerry, who yesterday switched his focus from Iraq and foreign affairs to domestic issues. Campaigning in Florida, he charged that Mr Bush had forsaken the middle class and re-electing him would mean "more of the same".

"For the last two years, I've travelled all over this country and listened to the stories of Americans struggling to make ends meet," Mr Kerry declared. "I've also shared their frustration at this administration's constant state of denial, which neglects their needs." Domestic ground ­ from tax cuts to health care and education ­ are to be the theme of a second debate this Friday in St Louis, Missouri.

Mr Kerry reiterated his theme from Thursday that Mr Bush had made the "wrong choices" for America, but this time targeting the issues of health care, education and even rising petrol prices. He told his audience in an Orlando high school that under Mr Bush, two incomes "barely cover the basics" for many families. He added: "The American dream is on the ballot a month from today."

The President, who embarked yesterday on a journey by bus through the critical swing state of Ohio, has sharpened his attacks on his opponent, whom he continues to characterise as inconsistent, hesitant and ill-equipped to lead troops in a war that he has called a mistake.

But there was evidence that even some of the President's own cohorts were disappointed by a performance on Thursday that often showed him looking irritated and frustrated. Viewers were struck by his repeated fidgeting and blinking at the podium while his opponent spoke.

Karl Rove, his top political aide, conceded to reporters that Mr Kerry "is arguably the better debater of the two", while insisting that on substance, Mr Bush was surely the victor. The Republican Senator John McCain agreed that it had been Mr Kerry's "brightest moment", as he "came out slugging".

Thursday's debate drew an audience of 62.5 million Americans, less than for this year's Superbowl but larger than for the Oscar ceremony in March. Only 46.6 million tuned in for the first encounter between Al Gore and George Bush four years ago.

Democrats have not forgotten that after the first Bush-Gore presidential debate in 2000, the best reviews all went to Mr Gore. That advantage proved short-lived, however, as the Republicans quickly counter-attacked.

News
peopleHowards' Way actress, and former mistress of Jeffrey Archer, was 60
Sport
Romelu Lukaku puts pen to paper
sport
News
Robyn Lawley
people
Arts and Entertainment
Unhappy days: Resistance spy turned Nobel prize winner Samuel Beckett
books
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
people
Life and Style
Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson voice the show’s heroes
gamingOnce stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover
News
i100
Life and Style
Phones will be able to monitor your health, from blood pressure to heart rate, and even book a doctor’s appointment for you
techCould our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?
News
people
Extras
indybest
Travel
Ryan taming: the Celtic Tiger carrier has been trying to improve its image
travelRyanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?
Sport
Usain Bolt confirms he will run in both the heats and the finals of the men's relay at the Commonwealth Games
commonwealth games
Life and Style
Slim pickings: Spanx premium denim collection
fashionBillionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers 'thigh-trimming construction'
News
Sabina Altynbekova has said she wants to be famous for playing volleyball, not her looks
people
News
i100
Life and Style
tech'World's first man-made leaves' could use photosynthesis to help astronauts breathe
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SAP Project Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

SAP Project Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

Senior Investment Accounting Change Manager

£600 - £700 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Senior Investment Accounting Change...

Microsoft Dynamics AX Functional Consultant

£65000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: A rare opportun...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star