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.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
Life and Style
Cheesecake frozen yoghurt by Constance and Mathilde Lorenzi
food + drinkThink outside the cool box for this summer’s frozen treats
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Sir Bradley Wiggins removes his silver medal after the podium ceremony for the men’s 4,000m team pursuit in Glasgow yesterday
Commonwealth games Disappointment for Sir Bradley in team pursuit final as England are forced to settle for silver
Alistair Brownlee (right) celebrates with his gold medal after winning the men’s triathlon alongside brother Jonny (left), who got silver
England's Jodie Stimpson won the women’s triathlon in the morning
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
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

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Process Improvement Analyst (Testing)

£40000 - £45000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Service Delivery Manager - Derivatives, Support,

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Service Delivery Manager - (Derivatives, Support...

Technical Account Manager - Java, FIX Protocol, FIX 5.0, C++

£30000 - £55000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Technical Account Manager - Java,...

WPF .NET Developer

£300 - £350 per day: Harrington Starr: WPF Analyst Programmer NET, WPF, C#, M...

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform