Washington Matters


McCain vs. Obama: By the Numbers


Barack Obama and John McCain run about even in a recent spate of national polls, but as is always the case with early polls, the interesting stuff is buried in the details. And in this instance, it's the details in the

 

The Pew poll has signs of trouble for both candidates in the form of relatively high negatives. McCain's are mostly political, while Obama's tend to be more personal. It's hard to say which will be harder to overcome.

 

The percentage of voters who have an unfavorable view of McCain has grown from 39% in February, when he was locking up the nomination, to 48% today. Almost all of those with negative views say it's because they disagree with his political beliefs. Most of the loss is from Democrats and independents who now tend to view McCain as more of a partisan Republican. No surprise, given his efforts to shore up the base by stressing issues and stances that appeal to conservatives and playing down those that earned him a reputation as an occasional party maverick.

 

Obama's unfavorable rating has grown from 35% to 42% since February, with nearly a third saying their views are based in part on "the kind of person he is."  The decline is largely among Republicans and independents, especially women in those categories. No doubt the Rev. Jeremiah Wright controversy and a couple of big verbal gaffes contribute to the change.

 

Complaints against Obama include that he's not tough enough and lacks experience. McCain wins on both of those counts. But Obama's strength is in the issues. By significant margins, voters express more confidence in how he would handle the economy, health care, energy policy and a host of social issues, such as abortion and gay rights.

 

McCain leads on taxes and immigration by 5 points and on foreign policy overall, which helps explain why he's been hammering Obama on Iran, Iraq and other national security problems so much lately. But it may not be working, at least not on Iraq.  McCain's lead on who would do best handling the war has fallen from 50%-38% last month to 46%-43% this month.

 

It's still early and all this will change as voters get a better idea of where the candidates stand. Only about half say they know much about it now. But the poll should give both men much to chew over as indicators of strategies and approaches that may not be working well right now.

 

Incidentally, if polls are your thing, there's an interesting ranking of which have been most accurate in predicting the primary results this year. Some will surprise you. (The Pew poll isn't included because it didn't poll in particular states before primaries.)
 




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