A public opinion poll out last night provided more evidence that former City Councilman Michael Nutter is gaining ground in the race for the Democratic mayoral nomination in Philadelphia.

The poll, done by Survey USA for NBC10, put Nutter in a virtual tie with businessman Tom Knox, with Knox leading by a statistically insignificant margin, 29 percent to 27 percent.

A survey published last week by Susquehanna Polling & Research of Harrisburg had a similar result, with Knox leading Nutter 20 percent to 18 percent. The Susquehanna poll had a far higher percentage of undecided voters than did the Survey USA poll, reflecting a difference in methodology.

What is significant about the new poll is the dramatic change from the results of a Survey USA poll taken just two weeks ago.

In that earlier snapshot of voter sentiment, Knox had a big lead over the field with 32 percent of the vote. Chaka Fattah, Bob Brady and Nutter were bunched behind him at 18, 17 and 14 percent respectively, with Dwight Evans trailing at 10 percent.

Now, Knox is at 29, which is essentially where he was two weeks ago. But Nutter has nearly doubled his strength among the Democratic electorate, going from 14 to 27 percent. Fattah's strength was constant at 18 percent, Brady fell to 11 percent, and Evans was at 9.

Some analysts believe the poll results reflect a bump in popularity tied to the editorial endorsement Nutter received from The Inquirer over the weekend and the publicity surrounding it. Whether that bump proves lasting remains to be seen.

The poll of 471 likely Democratic primary voters was taken from Saturday through Monday, and had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.6 percent. The primary takes place on May 15.

Yesterday the Nutter campaign, in an attempt to create an increased sense of momentum, became the first to announce how much money it had raised for the reporting period ending May 30. All the candidates must file campaign-finance reports by the end of the week.

Nutter said he had raised $3.4 million, which will likely place him second to the self-financed Knox in total money generated. In addition, he claimed 4,150 donors, which is likely to be the largest donor list. The campaign also reported it had raised $325,000 in the last four days - since the Susquehanna Poll came out and news of The Inquirer endorsement became public.

On the campaign trail yesterday, other candidates were busy picking up endorsements.

Brady received one from the union representing school police officers, pledging in the process to hire at least 87 more officers to patrol school buildings and the neighborhoods around them. In 1999, there were 525 full-time school officers, but the force has dwindled to 438, union officials said.

"They shouldn't be down police officers, they should be up police officers," Brady said during a news conference outside Lincoln High School in Northeast Philadelphia. "We need to give them all they need to get the job done."

Brady said he would like to guarantee that each school building has a full-time officer, would shift more experienced officers to the most violent schools, and would make sure there was a city police presence near schools when students are arriving and leaving.

He said he could not estimate what this would cost, asking: "What's the cost of a life?"

Fattah got an endorsement as well, from the political action committee run by ACORN, a neighborhood organization representing low-income families. The endorsement was delivered by a small crowd that gathered at 38th and Market Streets this morning outside a sheriff's sale of foreclosed properties.

The group chose Fattah because of his commitment to adding 8,000 units of affordable housing, a spokeswoman said, and his proposal to create a $10 million program to provide emergency mortgage assistance to homeowners facing foreclosure.

"If people are facing foreclosure through no fault of their own, they are going to have a friend in City Hall when I'm the mayor," Fattah said in accepting the endorsement. "It's not about abandoned cars in neighborhoods. It's about abandoned people in neighborhoods."