(CNSNews.com) - Texas Governor George W Bush holds a slight lead over Arizona Senator John McCain in Saturday's South Carolina primary, according to the latest poll from Reuters released on Wednesday. The survey was done by New York-based pollster Zogby International.
The survey of 607 likely voters shows Bush with 43 percent of the vote and McCain at 40 percent. Talk show host and former diplomat Alan Keyes brought up the rear at four percent while 13 percent of likely South Carolina voters remained undecided.
With a four percent margin of error, the Bush-McCain race is a statistical dead heat.
The Reuters/Zogby voter survey was composed of 62 percent Republicans, 22 percent Independents and 16 percent Democrats. Thirty-six percent of those surveyed said the Saturday contest is the first Republican contest in which they have voted. Twenty-nine percent told the pollster they had voted in past Democratic races, while 28 percent indicated they voted for Bill Clinton in 1996.
South Carolina has an open primary system that allows all registered voters to cross party lines to vote and then return to their regular, registered affiliation. The process is critical to McCain. He must attract Independents and conservative Democrats if he hopes to defeat Bush.
The situation is similar to New Hampshire where McCain defeated Bush by 19 points, after successfully attracting Independents and Democrats.
"This is obviously a horse race and too close to call right now," said pollster John Zogby. "McCain is heavily dependent on Democrats and Independents while Bush has consolidated his hold among core Republican groups."
Asked to name which of the GOP hopefuls had the best chance of winning the November general election, 54 percent said Bush while 37 percent named McCain. Bush also had a slightly higher favorable rating than McCain by a margin of 81 percent to 76 percent.