Mexico's Pena Nieto widens poll lead after debate

MEXICO CITY Fri May 11, 2012 4:37pm EDT

Enrique Pena Nieto (C), presidential candidate of the opposition Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), waves to supporters after attending a private meeting with Spanish's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy at a hotel in Mexico City April 18, 2012. REUTERS/Henry Romero

Enrique Pena Nieto (C), presidential candidate of the opposition Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), waves to supporters after attending a private meeting with Spanish's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy at a hotel in Mexico City April 18, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Henry Romero

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexican presidential front-runner Enrique Pena Nieto has extended the big lead he holds over his nearest rival in the campaign for the July 1 election after the first televised debate last Sunday, a poll showed on Friday.

The first voter survey by pollster Consulta Mitofsky since the debate showed support for Pena Nieto of the opposition Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, at 38.5 percent, up 0.5 point from a previous poll published on May 1.

That gave him a lead of 17 1/2 points over Josefina Vazquez Mota of President Felipe Calderon's National Action Party, or PAN, who fell 1 percentage point to 21 percent, her lowest level of support since the presidential campaign began at the end of March.

Two points behind her at 19 percent was leftist hopeful Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who narrowly lost the 2006 election.

The survey polled 1,000 eligible Mexican voters from Monday to Wednesday and had a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points.

Pena Nieto's debating skills had been discussed as a potential weak spot before the debate, and he came under sustained fire from Vazquez Mota and Lopez Obrador, who accused him of corruption, lies and being a pawn of the media.

The 45-year-old PRI candidate counterattacked in the debate, and analysts said he held his own. The second and final debate of the campaign will be on June 10.

(Reporting By Dave Graham; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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