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Polls Show McCain Slightly Ahead

POSTED: September 10, 2008, 12:00 am

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In a year when both of the major political parties broke tradition and held their conventions one right after the other, most analysts were paying close attention to the after effect – the bounce. It appears that the McCain camp can claim the momentum.

In the latest average of five national polls – the so-called “poll of polls” – Republican Senator John McCain has inched slightly ahead of his Democratic challenger Senator Barack Obama. The Arizona lawmaker leads by two points in a poll that does not have a sampling error. Senator Obama still leads in polls tracking states by the all important electoral vote, the ultimate determination of who wins the presidency.

The five polls that are averaged for the poll of polls are CNN, ABC/Washington Post, CBS, Gallup and Diageo/Hotline.

This is the first time Senator McCain has taken the lead in the “poll of polls.” It appears that the Republican candidate made up significant ground over the weekend as he wiped away Senator Obama’s three point lead. Just Monday the CNN/Opinion Research poll was released and it had the two candidates deadlocked at 48 percent.

The latest polls also defy conventional wisdom. It was widely believed that the naming of Governor Palin to the ticket would impact the way in which women viewed the race. There was widespread speculation that she could peel away some Democratic women voters who were still bitter over the outcome of the Democratic race for the party’s nomination. What the latest CSS/Opinion Research Corporation poll shows is that women are more skeptical of the Arkansas governor and that men, presumably white men, are expressing a favorable opinion of Palin and not questioning her qualifications.

View the NSnewstv Poll Watch

According to an analysis by CNN of its poll data, men are showing much stronger support for GOP vice presidential candidate Alaska Governor Sarah Palin than women; expressing a favorable opinion of her nine points higher than women. Also 57 percent of men indicated they believed Palin was qualified to serve as President, 14 points higher than women. A majority of women said Palin is not qualified to sit in the Oval Office. Overall favorable opinion of Palin was six points higher than her opponent Senator Joe Biden but the Delaware lawmaker still had a large lead among those who see him as more qualified to serve as President, 70 percent to 50 percent.

The latest polling data demonstrates just how intense the next eight weeks of campaigning will be as the two camps seek to gain advantage among an electorate that is deeply divided. For Obama the challenge is to rebut the attacks and messaging that came out of the Republican National Convention, and to find a way to penetrate voters who are skeptical of his campaign message and continue to buy into his opponent’s charge that he is not experienced enough to lead. The latter claim by McCain would seem ludicrous given his choice of Palin but so far the Republican has been able to gain some ground with that line of attack.

Senator McCain will need to continue casting doubts about Senator Obama while letting Governor Palin go on the offensive. It appears as though Palin’s delivery allows her to attack without appearing angry or divisive, a skill that is difficult to disarm. Judging by the poll numbers over the weekend, the McCain camp will likely keep Palin out front so long as the numbers are tracking upward.

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