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Poll: Kerry, Bush in Dead Heat

Democrats believe John Kerry (search) gives their party the best chance of beating President Bush in November, and think John Edwards (search) or Hillary Clinton (search) would make a good running mate, according to a national poll released Tuesday by the University of Connecticut.

Seventy-eight percent of Democrats polled said they believed Kerry has the best chance to beat Bush. Eight percent named Edwards and 5 percent said former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean.

In a head-to-head race, opinions are evenly divided, the poll showed. Forty-six percent of registered voters said they would support Kerry, compared to 45 percent for Bush. Six percent of registered voters said they were undecided.

"If Kerry is the Democratic Party's candidate, this general election campaign picks up from where the 2000 race left off, which is a race that is too close to call," said Ken Dautrich, the poll director.

Edwards, who is still campaigning for the nomination, was named by 34 percent of Democrats as their top choice for the vice presidential nomination. Clinton was named by 31 percent of Democrats.

Sixty-four percent of Democrats said Edwards would be either an excellent or good choice for vice president. While 8 percent said he would be a poor choice.

Clinton is seen as a much more divisive figure, the poll found. While 55 percent said she would be an excellent or good choice, 22 percent of Democrats said Clinton would be a poor choice.

Retired General Wesley Clark was named as an excellent or good choice for running mate by 36 percent, while 17 percent thought he would be a poor choice. He was the top choice of just 9 percent of those surveyed.

"Edwards has more appeal than Hillary Clinton, and much more appeal than Wesley Clark," said Dautrich. "He comes across as likable and charismatic, and he is a safer choice in that very few Democrats think he is a poor choice."

Among Democratic survey respondents, 52 percent said the running mate mattered a lot and 36 percent said it mattered somewhat. Most Democratic voters said that if Kerry becomes the nominee it will be important to have a southern candidate on the ticket.

The nationwide telephone poll surveyed 1,121 registered voters from Feb.12-16. It had a survey error margin of about 3 percentage points. Party-specific questions were asked of 474 Democrats with a survey error margin of about 5 percentage points.