Saturday, March 6

Florida, Florida, Florida

Florida voters leaning toward Kerry
A poll shows that a plurality of Florida voters disapprove of President Bush's performance on the economy and the war in Iraq, while his Democratic opponent is stronger with crucial swing voters.

Increasingly critical of President Bush on his handling of the economy and the war in Iraq, more Florida voters now say they plan to support Democrat John Kerry than to help reelect the president, according to a new poll.

The [Miami] Herald/St. Petersburg Times survey reveals striking vulnerabilities for Bush among key independent voters in the state that narrowly put him into the White House four years ago.

More Florida voters disapprove of his job performance than approve, another sign of the president's lagging popularity since the 2001 terrorist attacks transformed Bush from a polarizing figure into a popular wartime president.

A majority of voters believe that the United States is ''moving in the wrong direction'' under Bush -- a marked reversal from two years ago, when 7 in 10 voters, including half of Democrats, approved of Bush's job performance.

While Kerry secured the nomination only days ago, he holds a 49 to 43 percent lead over a president who just four months ago led every potential Democratic challenger by as many as 18 percentage points.


Most alarming to the White House is likely to be the president's eroding approval ratings on the very issues that he plans to make hallmarks of his reelection and that typically favor Republicans.

More than half of Florida voters disapprove of his handling of the economy, while only 46 percent approve of his leadership on Iraq.

Despite the GOP's attempt to woo seniors by pushing legislation to curb the rising cost of prescription drugs, voters overwhelmingly trust Kerry more than Bush to protect Social Security and Medicare benefits.

The Florida results reflect national polls that have shown Kerry leading Bush by as many as 10 percentage points, a striking contrast to Bush's rising numbers after the United States captured former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein in December.