From the Los Angeles Times:
WASHINGTON — Widespread unease over the country’s direction and doubts about President Bush’s policies on Iraq and the economy helped propel Sen. John F. Kerry to a solid lead among voters nationwide, according to a new Times poll.
Yet in a measure of the race’s tenuous balance, Times polling in three of the most fiercely contested states found that Bush had a clear advantage over Kerry in Missouri and is even with the presumed Democratic rival in Ohio and Wisconsin.
The surveys suggest that attitudes may be coalescing for a contest that pivots on the classic electoral question at times of discontent: Will voters see more risk in stability or change?
More than one-third of those questioned in the nationwide poll said they didn’t know enough about Kerry to decide whether he would be a better president than Bush. And when asked which candidate was more likely to flip-flop on issues, almost twice as many named Kerry than Bush.
Yet Kerry led Bush by 51% to 44% nationally in a two-way matchup, and by 48% to 42% in a three-way race, with independent Ralph Nader drawing 4%.
Lifting Kerry is a powerful tailwind of dissatisfaction with the nation’s course and Bush’s answers for challenges at home and abroad. Nearly three-fifths believe the nation is on the wrong track, the highest level a Times poll has recorded during Bush’s presidency.
Also, 56% said America “needs to move in a new direction” because Bush’s policies have not improved the country. Just 39% say America is better off because of his agenda.
Majorities disapprove of Bush’s handling of the economy and Iraq, despite recent encouraging news on both fronts.
This is great news, true, but the most important thing is that Kerry cannot count on running for the rest of the campaign on the “I’m Not Bush” theme. You can be sure that Rove and his minions will be doing whatever they can to define Kerry in negative terms and promote Bush as the heir to Reagan. (Josh Marshall notes that while the Kerry website has plenty of photos of their guy, the Bush site, up until this week, had unflattering pictures of Kerry. Now it’s an on-line Shrine To the Gipper. But interestingly, there are no pictures of Bush…)
And lest we get too confident, remember, it’s only June, and until the last fifteen seconds, Smarty Jones had the Triple Crown locked away.