Kerry Gains Among Undecideds

GENERIC kerry bush debate meter election vote poll swing voters undecided undecideds

From Costa Mesa, California to Camby, Indiana to Green Bay, Wisconsin, more than 200 uncommitted voters watched Thursday night's debate and, moment by moment, registered their reactions for CBS News on a sliding scale.

Most, 43 percent, scored John Kerry the winner. Marilla Hannon of Green Bay was one of them, reports CBS News Correspondent Anthony Mason.

"I was really impressed with John Kerry and I had not necessarily been that impressed with him," she said.

She wasn't alone. More than half of the fence-sitting voters we surveyed said their opinion of Kerry "changed for the better" Thursday night.

Before the debate, only 14 percent thought Kerry had a clear plan for Iraq; now, 52 percent think so.

Kerry's approval ratings rose the most when he attacked the Bush administration's planning of the war, as when he said, "I believe our troops need other allies helping."

And when he said, "We didn't need to rush to war without a plan to win the peace."

Those words resonated with Richard Edwards in Camby, Indiana.

"I have to kind of agree that we rushed the war and that's why I was kind of negative about President Bush," said Edwards.

President Bush moved the meter highest when he reiterated his resolve, like when he said, "What I won't do is change my core values because of politics or because of pressure."

Women voters found Kerry more "likeable." They responded far more positively than men to Kerry when he said, "The president thought it was more important to give the wealthiest people in America a tax cut rather than invest in homeland security."

Still, more women think President Bush can be trusted to protect the country from a terrorist attack, by 62 to 52 percent.

When it was over, and our uncommitteds were asked to make a choice, by 38 to 31 percent they chose Kerry.

But nearly a third were like John Lutz: "I still really haven't made a full commitment where I am."

This was a scientific sample of swing voters, the voters who could sway this election. Most did not change their opinion of President Bush. But while the president may not have lost any ground, it appears John Kerry gained some.