Gore Lead in California Shrinks, Poll shows

U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore's lead in the White House race over his Republican rival George W. Bush in California has shrunk to five points because of a surge of support for Green Party candidate Ralph Nader, a poll released on Tuesday said.

The poll, conducted by the Public Policy Institute of California, indicated that Vice President Gore leads Texas Governor Bush 44 percent to 39 percent. Gore led Bush by nine points in September.

While Gore's support slid from 48 percent, Bush's support rate remained at 39 percent, but Nader's support rate rose to 6 percent from 4 percent.

"The race in California is less stable than anyone expected," poll director Mark Baldassare said. "It is here that Nader could most affect Gore's chances for a victory."

The survey, conducted among 2,007 likely voters between October 11-18, had an error margin of two percentage points.

California is the largest state in the U.S. with 54 electoral votes, one-fifth of the 270 needed to win the White House race.

"We're all getting more nervous about it," said Democratic pollster Paul Maslin, whose own surveys have found Gore's lead slipping to the mid-single digits.

The Republican National Committee expanded its advertising slightly recently California. Those ads came on top of 1.5 million U.S. dollars a week the committee began spending this month on Bush's behalf, most of it in Los Angeles.

Bush dispatched the Republican governors of Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Arizona to campaign for him in California on Tuesday.

Gore has not visited California since September 20, and he had no visits scheduled for the last two weeks of the campaign, but Bush has been a regular visitor to the state.

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