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TOO CLOSE TO CALL

Poll finds Kerry, Bush in a dead heat in N.H.

CONCORD, N.H. -- The race between Democrat John Kerry and President Bush in New Hampshire is too close to call, a poll released yesterday indicates.

Kerry had 49 percent to Bush's 45 percent in the University of New Hampshire poll. But the 4-point spread was just within the poll's margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points, making the race too close to call.

The same poll gave Kerry a 14-point margin in February. But that was shortly after the New Hampshire primary, which gave saturation news coverage to harsh attacks on Bush by all the Democratic candidates.

Those polled were not given independent Ralph Nader as a choice, but interviewers kept track of those who volunteered Nader's name, pollster Andrew Smith said. He said only one of the 484 people who answered the question chose Nader. "I think there's a sour taste in the mouths of a lot of Naderites up here," Smith said.

Nader's 22,198 votes in New Hampshire in 2000 was nearly three times Bush's victory margin over Democrat Al Gore.

But exit polls conducted by the Associated Press and the television networks suggested that Bush would have won New Hampshire even if Nader had not been on the ballot. Some Nader voters said they would have stayed home, and Gore's margin over Bush among the rest probably would not have put him over the top.

In yesterday's poll, Nader's lone vote was part of the 2 percent who chose "other" in a Kerry-Bush race. Four percent were undecided. More people viewed both Bush and Kerry favorably than unfavorably, but it was close. The numbers were 48 percent to 46 percent for Bush, 46 percent to 41 percent for Kerry.

The telephone poll of likely voters was conducted April 19-26, before the furor over alleged abuses of Iraqi prisoners by US personnel.

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