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Posted by on Jul 23, 2008 in Politics | 7 comments

WSJ/NBC Poll: Obama Leads By 6 Points But Obama And McCain Both Have Negatives

A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll shows that some 100 days before election day Democratic presumptive Presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama has a six point lead — but both Obama and Republican presumptive Presidential nominee Sen. John McCain have their work cut out for them.

Both have negatives: Obama because he’s a new political product on the national political scene and seen as risky, and McCain because although the veteran Senator feels like a safer choice to many voters, many of those same voters are extremely unhappy with President George Bush and where the country is heading under the two-term GOP administration. And, as noted here before, some may be Big Broom voters — who want to sweep the present crew totally out.

The poll numbers suggest what has been seen during Obama’s highly publicized overseas trip is likely to become the norm: an almost frenzied battle between the two political parties to define the other party’s candidate in the most negative terms possible and remind voters of aspects of each party that some parts of the polity feel are risky:

A majority of Americans think Barack Obama is a riskier choice for the presidency, but he maintains a six-point lead over Republican John McCain, according to the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.

Given Bush’s low approval ratings, that still is not stellar polling result for Obama. MORE:

With slightly more than 100 days until the election, the survey provides a glimpse of the challenges facing both presidential candidates.

For McCain, it comes amid a toxic political climate for Republicans. Just three in 10 respondents approve of President Bush’s job. Only one in seven McCain voters say they’re excited to vote for him. And the percentage of Americans who believe the country is on the right track is at its lowest mark ever in the poll.

For Obama, it’s that a majority think he’s a risky choice for the presidency; that less than half say the Illinois Democrat shares their background and values; and that there are concerns he’s too inexperienced.

“When it comes to mood, the Republicans face very long odds,” says Democratic pollster Peter D. Hart, who conducted this survey with Republican pollster Neil Newhouse. “And when it comes to perceptions of Barack Obama, I think the Democrats and Barack Obama have a job to do.”

Look for both parties to continue to push hard for the support of independent voters for support of backers of former Senator Hillary Clinton. If Obama loses and it turns out that Clinton voters in substantial numbers didn’t support the ticket due to anger towards Obama that isn’t issue-based, look for Clinton to face a battle-royal in 2012 if she seeks the nomination since she’ll face stiff opposition from angry Obama supporters.

So it’s shaping up that both candidates face a similar task: if McCain wants to win, he can’t do so without exciting members of his own political party in a way that doesn’t chase away independents and some Democrats, and if Obama wants to win during a close election he can’t do it unless his party is more unified than it now appears to be and he doesn’t win over independents.

The bottom line is this: the gap between how voters feel about the direction of the country, the most unpopular President since Jimmy Carter, and the GOP as a brand name on one side and Obama’s slim lead margin on the other in most polls should be worrisome to Democrats — and keep hope alive for Republicans.

Polls show some nail-biters in some states.

Obama is slightly ahead in Michigan. The two are nearly tied in New Hampshire. Obama also has a narrow lead in Colorado and Florida.

But that isn’t the whole story.

Rasmussen has McCain 6 points over Obama in Ohio. And an analysis by the Huffington Post indicates that polls are showing an “uptick” for McCain when trending is examined.

Meanwhile, Obama can take solace from a new ABC poll that shows him with a huge lead over McCain among unmarried women in battleground states.

Within this context, McCain is now using a tactic Sen. Clinton used during her campaign: he is charging that the press is overwhelmingly biased in favor of Obama. In the case of Clinton, her complaints were widely seen as pressuring the press to get tougher on the Illinois Senator, ushering a chapter in his primary battle where he started to lose ground amid tougher press scrutiny.

The question: with polls so narrow in many key states, is this a risky or smart strategy for McCain? The Christian Science Monitor reports that this could be on solid political ground, although it does have risks:

For Senator McCain, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, crying foul on the news media represents a double-edged sword. On the plus side, he plays into the longstanding narrative that asserts reporters are rooting for Obama, the likely Democratic nominee, to win in November. Hillary Rodham Clinton played that card during the primaries, to some effect, but ultimately unsuccessfully.

A recent Rasmussen Reports poll backs up McCain, reporting a growing portion of likely voters see a bias toward Obama – now 49 percent, up from 44 percent a month ago. Only 14 percent believe reporters favor McCain. And the poll was taken before the McCain campaign complained publicly that the The New York Times had rejected an Op-Ed by the senator that responded to an Obama Op-Ed in the Times.

On the negative side, McCain risks looking like a whiner. Remember those bumper stickers from the 1992 campaign, “Annoy the Media, Vote Bush”? Bill Clinton defeated the first President Bush anyway.

“Typically, complaining about the media is one of the steps on the 12-step program to losing,” says Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Washington-based Project for Excellence in Journalism, which analyzes media coverage of the campaign. “When you’re ahead, you don’t complain about the press coverage, even if you think they only cover the gaffes and never the substance.”

Still, he notes, it’s early in the general election campaign, and McCain is trailing Obama by only a few points in the polls – outperforming his party’s ravaged image. And, say others, there are good reasons for McCain to allege media bias.

Given the country’s political mood and financial crisis, Obama’s lead should be bigger. So there is a perceptible political opening for McCain — if he and his staff know how to use it in a way that doesn’t boomerang and make McCain look bad…as McCain’s comments about Obama wanting to lose the war did. McCain can’t win if he’s running to be President of the Republican party’s base.

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  • elrod

    This is 1980 all over again. Voters hate the incumbent and don’t particularly like McCain. But they haven’t been completely sold on the challenger yet. It was in the last weeks of the campaign that Reagan pulled way ahead.

    Events like the trip abroad help to soothe the anxiety of voters worried about Obama’s lack of experience. Obama has imagery to back up his Commander in Chief credentials (meeting with troops and Petraeus), foreign policy and national security.

    What people forget is that Barack Obama has not said a single word about domestic issues this week, when voters care more about domestic issues than anything else. When Obama gets back to the states, he can start cutting ads with the imagery from his trip abroad, and he can talk about the economy nonstop.

    The only substantive card McCain has is drilling. Obama should attack that in two ways. First, run ads showing McCain, in his words, deriding offshore drilling as a gimmick that won’t reduce prices. Second, push heavily for a ban on offshore speculation in oil, which has accounted for a large chunk of the oil price spike.

  • patrickvashon

    The poll results give the road map for the final 100 days of the campaign. Obama must make voters feel comfortable with who he is as a person before they will make him President. His trip to the Middle East, Iraq and Germany is designed to
    make people trust him and see him as a possible world leader. McCain must prove the negative, show Obama as too inexperienced to trust with the job of President. If McCain can succeed in making Obama seem untrustworthy then he has a chance.

  • Mike_P

    OK, so McCain, who is quite possibly the best known (and overall, respected) politician in America (short of a Clinton or Bush) … a war hero … a decades-long serving senator … who vastly outspent Obama in June on TV ads … a “maverick” who was ahead by 6 points in the Gallup tracking poll in May, should be *farther behind* at this point – the dog days of summer, before the conventions.

    Gee, tough audience here, Joe. What does it take beyond making up 12 points in the polls when no one’s really paying attention for Obama to get a little respect? Ahead in Florida. Ahead in Colorado. Ahead in Michigan. Ahead in NH. Weird results in Ohio, given their earlier poll, which had Obama well ahead. Ahead in Virginia. Well ahead among women voters, voters under 50ish, Jewish voters, African American voters, hispanic voters… And this guy’s an African American (OMG) who’s named Barack HUSSEIN Obama!!1!1!!

    C’mon. Let’s not play the “But…” game here, effectively burying the lede. Let’s call it like it is – McCain is in real trouble. And his campaign’s remarkably flailing lack of message discipline this week, in spite of the latest McCain campaign shakeup to bring the “professionals” in to “steady the ship” proves it.

    That’s not to say Obama doesn’t have vulnerabilities – he does. But man. Tough room.

  • Neocon

    Barak Obama wants to spend. He has nothing going for him on the domestic side of the agenda. Nothing.

    He does not want to balance the budget or even attempt it and people know that his Robin Hood mentality is not going to get the taxes needed to balance the budget. Taxing the rich and then giving it to the poor still leaves us with a budget deficit.

    The greatest national security issues facing America today are the huge deficits, selling out to China and foreign nations to fund our spending frenzy and oil.

    Obama has shown no plans what so ever to address this. No to drilling. No to Nuclear because his party is opposed to drilling and Nuclear. No to a balanced budget because his website is full of spend, spend, spend.

    No Mr. Obama has nothing to throw at the American economy. Its why hes overseas. The only thing he can throw at the economy is fancy speeches and flowery rhetoric.

    there is only one solution. Balance the Budget. Pay down the debt and lower gas prices. What comes after that is all gravy

  • casualobserver

    Joe, Joe, Joe………still trying out some politically balanced post topics to an audience that lost any sense of political balance 2 years ago? If nothing else, I admire your perserverance in the face of insurmountable odds.

    Elrod’s “wait until tomorrow” rebuttals are brilliant in their hard to disprove formulation, albeit these get slightly boring in their repetition over the past few months.

    Mike P, who quickly refers to his screen save of the one poll among thousands contrary that serves as the linchpin to his argument.

    McCain is indeed a flawed campaigner and proves it several times a week. The left blogosphere spends 95% of its time trying to convice America McCain’s middle name is “Walker” as opposed to any articulation of how the 6th time a Democrat administration takes money from a successful person and gives it to an unsuccessful person will really catapault the American economy this time around.

    The gist of the article is unequivocally true. In terms of campaign landscape match-ups, this the Patriots against the Dolphins in Gillett Stadium. Of course the Patriot fans in the bleachers have all sorts of rationales why they’re only up 6 points at half time. Only savvy Belicheks know that this is a cakewalk oddly resembling a contest.

  • DLS

    “This is 1980 all over again”

    Not so. There is not a nation-wide rejection of conservatism and of a president running for re-election that would be needed for this to be true. Not to mention the lack of the personality cult in 1980 that we see this year. (We do see degenerate hatred for Bush by the cultists that resembles _post-1980-election_ hatred for Reagan, but again it’s not the same.) This is likely to resemble the 1994 election results, although this time the results are more widely predicted and hyped, unlike in 1994. It’s a continuation and extension of 1996, in other words. Clinton would do as well as Obama were Obama not in the race.

    * * *

    Rather than be obscessed with the poll of the day, hour, minute, look at the trend.

    * * *

    Entertainment of the day:

    It’s Obamamanics’ idea of an expensive hi-tech US heavy brigade force! (i.e., armed, mechanized hi-tech security forces backing up nice, social-work peacekeepers) Fully under the command of the United Nations, of course.

  • runasim

    There are two remarkable things here:
    1. A black man named Barak Hussein Obama is a serious challenger to….
    2. the traditional white guy who has been a household name for eons.

    That a man with such disadvantages can pull up so close to a man with so many advantages is a remarkable achievement. That can;t be rarionalized away.

    That it’s happened in spite of MCain’s continued free pass in the media makes the achievement even more remarkable.

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