Presumptive Democratic nominee John Kerry's selection of Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C., to be his running mate already seems to be paying immediate, although perhaps temporary, dividends for his campaign, a new NBC poll finds. Still, nearly two-thirds of respondents say that the Edwards pick will ultimately not make a difference when they vote in November.
According to the poll, which was conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International, a Kerry-Edwards ticket gets support from 49 percent of registered voters, while President Bush and Vice President Cheney get 41 percent, and independent Ralph Nader and running mate Peter Camejo get 4 percent. In a two-way race, Kerry-Edwards leads Bush-Cheney, 54 percent to 43 percent.
These results represent a boost for Kerry's campaign, compared with polls from a week ago showing that the race was essentially tied. "Subject to confirmation in surveys with longer field periods, the numbers suggest at least a short-term bounce for the Democratic ticket," said Evans Witt, who conducted this poll, which was done on July 6 and based on interviews with 504 registered voters. The survey's margin of error is plus or minus 5 percentage points.
Edwards versus Cheney
When asked who would do a better job of running the country, 45 percent said Edwards, while 38 percent said Cheney. That finding runs counter to Bush's answer Wednesday to a reporter's request for him to compare Cheney and Edwards. "Dick Cheney can be president. Next," Bush said curtly.
The Bush campaign, however, isn't surprised by these results. The day before Kerry tapped Edwards, Bush chief strategist Matthew Dowd released a memo noting that all presidential challengers get a bounce — an average swing of 15 points, he said — after they name their running mate and hold their convention. In fact, Dowd surmised that since the race has been tied of late according to the polls, Team Kerry could have a 55 percent-to-40 percent lead by August.
Despite these positive numbers for Kerry and Edwards, 63 percent of the respondents said that Kerry's selection of Edwards would not affect their vote in November's presidential election. That's compared with 24 percent who responded that it would make them more likely to vote for Kerry, and 7 percent who said it would make them less likely to vote for him.
Weak showing for White House
Nevertheless, the poll has other less-than-stellar numbers for the White House, and especially for Cheney, who has recently battled negative press reports over cursing on the Senate floor and maintaining that there was a collaborative link between al-Qaida and Iraq.
According to the survey, 48 percent of the respondents disapprove of Bush's job as president, compared with 45 percent who approve. And while 44 percent approve of Cheney's performance versus 43 percent who disapprove, the poll also shows that 44 percent have an unfavorable opinion of him compared with 41 percent who have a favorable opinion.
Moreover, when asked who is more optimistic about the future of the country, 49 percent said Edwards, while just 28 percent chose Cheney.
Yet the poll also finds that many voters still don't know who Edwards is. Forty-one percent have a favorable opinion of him, compared with 24 percent who have an unfavorable opinion. Eleven percent say they have never heard of Edwards, and 24 percent say they don't know what to think about him.
But the survey shows that one of Edwards' perceived weaknesses — his past work as a trial lawyer — might not be as much of a liability as his supporters and detractors think. Sixty-nine percent of the respondents said his trial-lawyer past wouldn't make a difference to their vote, while 14 percent said it would make them less likely to vote for him, and another 14 percent said it would make them more likely to vote for him.
Mark Murray covers politics for NBC News.
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