WASHINGTON -- John McCain's appeal among independents and Democrats has him in a dead heat with George W. Bush in South Carolina and slightly ahead in Michigan, new polls indicate. Bush has an advantage among Republicans in both states.
McCain turned the GOP presidential race upside down when he won the New Hampshire primary Feb. 1 with a 3-1 edge among independents, and even an edge among Republicans.
Bush had 42 percent and McCain had 40 percent, a dead heat, in a Los Angeles Time poll of likely voters in the South Carolina released today. That mirrors a Newsweek poll over the weekend that also had Bush and McCain in a dead heat in the state with a crucial primary next Saturday.
McCain has a slight lead over Bush -- 43 percent to 34 percent -- in Michigan, which has a primary three days after South Carolina.
Both South Carolina and Michigan have open GOP primaries, meaning independents and Democrats can vote in the event. Turnout will be a key in both states, because Republicans traditionally are more likely to vote in their own party's primary.
In New Hampshire, a strong turnout of independent voters confounded pollsters and gave McCain an 18-point victory.
The Times poll in South Carolina highlighted the race between McCain's coalition of moderate Republicans and independents and Bush's attempts to motivate Republicans, especially conservatives to vote in the primary.
While both candidates were viewed favorably by three quarters of South Carolinians, 25 percent of Bush supporters had an unfavorable view of McCain and 42 percent of McCain supporters thought poorly of Bush.
The surveys suggested that McCain's ''I'll always tell you the truth'' message is striking a chord in key early states. Honesty was the personal trait mentioned most often by likely voters in both states. McCain led in both states among those who cited that as the top trait.
The Detroit News poll of potential Michigan voters, conducted Tuesday through Friday by Mitchell Research and Communications, involved 607 voters likely to participate in the primary. It has an error margin of plus or minus 4 percentage points.
The Times Poll surveyed 1,047 voters intending to vote in the South Carolina Republican primary; it has an error margin of plus or minus 3 percentage points. The survey was conducted from Thursday through Saturday.
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