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Inside Politics

Poll: Bush, Kerry about even in 3 key states

Surveys taken in battlegrounds of Florida, Ohio, Missouri

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America Votes 2004

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush and Democratic challenger Sen. John Kerry are essentially tied in Florida, Ohio and Missouri, three of the most populous battleground states in the November election, according to a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll of likely voters released Sunday.

Together, the states account for 58 electoral votes -- more than one-fifth of the 270 needed to win the presidency.

Bush holds a slight numerical lead over Kerry in Florida, Kerry has a little larger numerical lead in Ohio, and the two are tied in Missouri.

But because the results are all within each poll's margin of error, the candidates are essentially even. The three polls were conducted between July 19 and Thursday.

In Florida, with 27 electoral votes, Bush was the choice of 50 percent of the 699 likely voters polled, while 47 percent of those surveyed preferred Kerry.

The survey had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

In Ohio, with 20 electoral votes, Kerry led Bush by a 6-point margin, 51 percent to 45 percent, in the poll of 639 likely voters.

The survey had a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percentage points.

In Missouri, with 11 electoral votes, a poll of 636 likely voters found the two men tied at 48 percent.

The margin of error in that poll was plus or minus 5 percentage points.

Bush carried all three states by fewer than 4 percentage points in 2000.

He won Florida by only 537 votes in a contentious monthlong recount battle with former Vice President Al Gore.

The inclusion of consumer advocate Ralph Nader's independent presidential bid had little effect on the results.

With Nader included in voters' choices, Bush led Kerry by a 50-46 margin in Florida, with Nader drawing the support of only 1 percent of likely voters surveyed.

In Ohio, 5 percent of voters supported Nader, leaving Kerry leading Bush 48-43 percent.

In Missouri, where Nader drew the support of 3 percent of likely voters polled, Bush and Kerry remained tied at 47 percent.

Nader and running mate Peter Camejo have not secured a spot on the ballot in any of the three states surveyed.

But Nader has won the endorsement of Florida's Reform Party, making it likely that he will appear on its line in November.

Many Democrats blame Nader's showing as the Green Party candidate in states like Florida for Gore's narrow loss to Bush four years ago, and Republican activists have tried to help him get on the ballot in some expected battleground states in the hopes of drawing liberal votes away from Kerry.

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