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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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