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Inside Politics

Poll: Florida's presidential race looks like 2000

Survey shows Bush, Kerry split too close to call


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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- If a recent poll holds true, Florida could have Americans biting their nails -- again -- as votes are counted in November's presidential election.

President Bush and his Democratic challenger, Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, each received support from 45 percent of respondents in a new CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll of registered Florida voters.

Ralph Nader, who may appear on the Florida ballot as the Reform Party candidate, drew the support of 3 percent of voters in the poll, conducted between Friday and Sunday.

The survey of 859 registered voters had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

With 27 electoral votes, Florida is one of the election's top prizes.

In 2000, more than 6 million votes were cast in the state, and Bush won by just 537.

A highly publicized and contentious recount was under way in several counties when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a Florida Supreme Court ruling on December 12, 2000. All recounts were stopped, and Bush claimed victory.

Nader, the Green Party's candidate in 2000, won 2.74 percent of the national vote, placing third. But many Democrats blame him for siphoning off votes in key states, especially Florida, that might have gone to Democratic nominee Al Gore.

Conservative Pat Buchanan appeared on the Florida ballot as the Reform Party candidate in 2000.

Although the country has since seen the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and the war in Iraq, the political division among Florida voters has apparently changed very little.

Even Hurricane Charley, which brought billions of dollars worth of devastation to Florida on August 13, hasn't shifted voters' opinions on the presidential race.

Seventy-percent of respondents said they approve of how Bush responded to the disaster. That's 10 points higher than Floridians rated his father's response to Hurricane Andrew in 1992. And 76 percent said they approve of how Bush's brother, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, has handled the state's relief efforts.

But those high marks for his response to the hurricane don't appear to have helped Bush's re-election bid. Bush's support among registered voters dropped 4 percentage points between the most recent poll and one taken in mid-July.

The poll also shows a dead heat between Bush and Kerry when 671 likely voters were questioned.

Bush's 48 percent to Kerry's 46 percent among those voters was also within the margin of error. Nader drew 2 percent support in that survey.


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