Jeb Bush Maintains Lead Over McBride

Gov. Jeb Bush was narrowly leading Democratic challenger Bill McBride on the eve of the candidates' last debate in the governor's race before the Nov. 5 election, a poll showed.

A poll conducted Oct. 17-20 by the Mason-Dixon Polling & Research Inc. showed Bush ahead of McBride by 49 percent to 44 percent, with 6 percent of the 628 registered voters undecided. The poll, released Monday, had a margin of error of 4 percentage points.

A Mason-Dixon poll released in late September showed Bush leading McBride 49 percent to 43 percent. That survey had a margin of error of 4 percentage points.

Political analysts said Tuesday night's debate could weigh heavily on voters' decisions going into the polls on Election Day.

"McBride has to actually stagger him and capture the voter's attention,'' Ron Sachs, a former spokesman for Gov. Lawton Chiles and Tallahassee public relations consultant, told The Tampa Tribune. "Basically, if it's an even performance by both of them, it doesn't bode well for Bill McBride."

Monday's poll may also indicate that McBride's momentum was slowing, analysts said.

"McBride has already maxed out all the glitz from beating [Janet] Reno,'' said Brad Coker of Mason-Dixon.