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

As of Sept. 27, George W. Bush holds a 45-electoral vote lead, to go along with his statistically insignificant leads in the popular vote.

According to the latest nonpartisan state polls, Democrat John F. Kerry is now ahead in former Bush state New Hampshire, while Bush leads in former Gore states Wisconsin and Iowa. All other states appear to be voting as they did in 2000, so if the election were held today, Bush would beat Kerry by 292 to 247 electoral votes.

It could be closer, because three Bush states (40 votes) and four Kerry states (44 votes) fall within the typical 4 percent margin of error. (At one time during the past two months, Kerry has also led in former Bush states Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Nevada, Missouri, Ohio, Tennessee, Arizona and West Virginia.)

Eight states (with 91 electoral votes) that previously leaned to Kerry have recently become battlegrounds, while nine former Bush-leaning states (75 votes) are currently competitive. Three ongoing battleground states (58 votes) are now close; 12 states in the West, East and Midwest (plus D.C.) give Kerry a foundation of 179 electoral votes; and 18 states (145 votes) are bedrock Bush.

Florida has experienced at least 21 lead changes in the past 18 months. The two latest surveys (Gallup, Sept. 24, and Rasmussen, Sept. 26) average a 1 percent Bush edge. Florida will probably be the key to victory.

Since the GOP convention, Bush has gained ground in 24 states, while Kerry's polling results have improved in 15. Bush's most important gains involved capturing the lead in Tennessee (a 16 percent shift), Iowa (9 percent), Colorado (7 percent), Nevada (6.4 percent), Ohio (4.4 percent) and Florida (1 percent). He also has significant gains in New Hampshire (6.2 percent), New Jersey (5.5 percent), Vermont (5 percent), Illinois (5 percent), Oregon (4 percent) and Maine (4 percent).

Kerry's biggest percentage improvements occurred in Mississippi (22 percent), Connecticut (8 percent), Louisiana (8 percent), North Carolina (4.8 percent), California (3.7 percent), New Mexico (4.1 percent) and Arkansas (4.6 percent).

In the national popular vote, Bush's convention bounce has petered out. The Economist (Sept. 24) and American Research Group (Sept. 22) have Kerry leading by 1 percent. Rasmussen (Sept. 27), Marist (Sept. 24) and Fox (Sept. 24) have Bush ahead by 2 percent. And Bush led by 3 percent in three other recent polls: NBC (Sept. 21), Zogby (Sept. 20) and IBD (Sept. 19). Time – which had Bush leading by 12 percent on Sept. 11 – now puts his lead at only 4 percent.

In a recent New York Times poll, about 80 percent believed Bush was either "hiding something" or "mostly lying" when talking about the Iraq war. In a Sept. 15 Harris poll, 55 percent of respondents believed Bush misled the country about weapons of mass destruction and links between Iraq and Al Qaeda (versus 36 percent who believe he told the truth). Fifty-four percent of respondents in the same poll said we should bring the troops home next year, versus 38 percent who feel we should stay in Iraq until it has a stable government.

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