President Bush moved into a slim one-point lead over Democratic Sen. John Kerry in a tight White House race, according to a Reuters/Zogby poll released on Thursday.
Bush gained one point to 46-percent, with Kerry holding steady at 45-percent in the latest three-day tracking poll, which concluded before the start of Wednesday night's crucial final debate in Tempe, Arizona.
Bush and Kerry, a senator from Massachusetts, had been deadlocked at 45-percent for two days in the poll.
The close race had raised the stakes for the final debate, which gave both candidates their last chance before the Nov. 2 election to make their case directly to tens of millions of potential voters.
The White House rivals battled on a variety of domestic issues, with Bush repeatedly criticizing Kerry's "far-left" Senate voting record and Kerry saying the middle class had lost ground under the president.
The new tracking poll found 51-percent of likely voters believe the country is headed in the wrong direction, with only 42-percent saying it is headed in the right direction. Nearly 49-percent said it was time for someone new in the White House, while 46-percent wanted to re-elect Bush.
The poll of 1,231 likely voters was taken Monday through Wednesday and has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.9 percentage points. The rolling poll will continue through Nov. 1.
A tracking poll combines the results of three consecutive nights of polling, then drops the first night's results each time a new night is added. It allows pollsters to record shifts in voter sentiment as they happen.
The poll showed independent candidate Ralph Nader, blamed by some Democrats for drawing enough votes from Al Gore to cost him the election in 2000, with the support of one percent of likely voters.
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