By Carl Weiser
Enquirer Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON - A new poll shows Sen. John Kerry and President Bush in a statistical dead heat among Ohio's likely voters - but Kerry leads among registered voters.
The USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll of registered Ohioans was taken Aug. 13-15, before both presidential candidates came to Cincinnati to speak to the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention.
Among likely voters, the Kerry-Edwards ticket led Bush-Cheney 48 percent to 46 percent. Among registered voters, Kerry's lead grew, 52 percent to 42 percent.
But because the margin of error on the poll of likely voters is plus or minus 5 percentage points and plus or minus 4 percentage points for registered voters, it means Bush could be leading Kerry.
"Wow," said Kerry's Ohio spokeswoman, Jennifer Palmieri. While most pollsters rely more on what "likely voters" say, Palmieri said the "registered voter" figure was significant.
"A big part of our effort is to bring in people who haven't voted before to turn out this time," she said. "The polls that don't reflect that don't reflect what's really going on in Ohio."
But Bush campaign spokesman Kevin Madden pointed out that Kerry's rating had actually dropped from the last USA Today/CNN/Gallup Poll taken just before the Democratic National Convention began July 26.
"This particular snapshot shows us John Kerry didn't get the bounce out of his nominating convention that he expected," Madden said. "There's no question the race is close and it will be continue to be close."
The sample size for registered voters was 761 and 628 for likely voters.
The poll is the latest of several surveys showing the Buckeye State is still up for grabs among likely voters.
The gap among registered voters shows why such independent groups as America Coming Together (or ACT) and other get-out-the-vote groups that support Kerry could be key to the battle for Ohio.
"What it suggests is that the Democrats will be wise to try to raise turnout in Ohio as high as they can," said Eric Rademacher, director of the University of Cincinnati's Ohio Poll.
Rademacher's organization will release its latest poll today.
Pollsters say registered voters tend to skew more Democratic than likely voters because they include more low-income, less-educated and younger voters who are less likely to show up on Election Day, he said.
Pollsters try to narrow results to likely voters by asking people, for example, if they voted in the last four elections and how likely they are to vote in the upcoming elections, said David E. Johnson, pollster for Strategic Vision, an Atlanta polling company.
"Among registered voters, you have a larger population of minority voters. Minority voters are traditionally not strong likely voters," said Johnson.
"I've never seen an election like this before," Johnson said. "This close, and no trend."
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