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IT'S A TIE

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Editor's note: This is the third in a weekly series of poll updates on the Nov. 2 presidential election.

This was the wildest polling week of the campaign! It began with Bush leading by 70 electoral votes. Then there was a massive (176-vote) post-debate swing to Kerry as Iowa, Wisconsin, Arkansas, Florida, Ohio, Nevada and New Hampshire returned to his column. Kerry was leading by 106 votes on Oct. 10, but then Florida, Ohio and Arkansas slipped back to Bush a day later – resulting in a 269-269 electoral vote tie.

Kerry gained major ground in 21 states last week, while Bush improved slightly in nine. Kerry made significant improvements in 18 key swing states: New Hampshire (a 12.1 percent gain in the polls), Michigan, North Carolina, Oregon, Iowa, Missouri, Nevada, Arkansas, Minnesota, Arizona, Virginia, Wisconsin, Washington, Pennsylvania, Florida, Ohio and Colorado. Kerry also picked up 9 percent in Maryland, 8 percent in Illinois and 2.7 percent in New Jersey.

Bush's biggest improvement was in New Mexico, where Kerry's lead slid from 11.6 percent to 4.6 percent.

Although the combatants currently are knotted in the standings, Bush is more vulnerable, because six of his states – with 95 electoral votes – fall within polls' 4 percent margin of error, while Kerry has five vulnerable states, with 47 electoral votes at risk.

As usual, Florida was the most volatile state, ping-ponging from Bush up 7 percent (in a Quinnipiac poll released Oct. 6) to Kerry up 1.3 percent (in a Zogby survey released a day later) and back to Bush up 4 percent (in a Rasmussen result on Oct. 11). Over the past week, Kerry's situation has improved in all of the major national popular polls. On Oct. 11, Zogby found that Kerry was leading Bush by 3 percent – which American Research Group also ascertained on Oct. 6. The Associated Press found Kerry in front by 4 percent, The Los Angeles Times put Kerry up by two points, The Economist and Greenberg Quinlan Rosner had Kerry up by 1 percent and Time, CBS and CNN found a tie.

Recent polls indicate Americans are dissatisfied with the country's direction under Bush. The latest wrong-track/right-track ratings: 54 percent/43 percent (Rasmussen, Oct. 9), 56 percent/40 percent (AP, Oct. 7), 57 percent/38 percent (Newsweek, Oct. 4) and 53 percent/42 percent (L.A. Times).

Incumbents with job approval ratings of 53 percent and higher usually get re-elected; those at 50 percent and lower lose. Bush's most recent job approval ratings: 47 percent (Zogby, Marist and CBS); 46 percent (AP and Newsweek); and 45 percent (ARG).

ABC/Money's consumer comfort index hit its lowest level since June 20 last week. The Conference Board's consumer confidence index is at its lowest level since May. Only 30 percent of those surveyed told ABC News (on Oct. 6) that they were better off now than they were when Bush became president.

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