Recent public opinion polls in the U.S. presidential race give Democrat
Barack Obama a lead over Republican John McCain. But the lead is less
than expected given some Democratic advantages this election year. VOA
National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
surveys give Senator Obama a lead of between three and six percentage
points over Senator McCain with the election a little more than four
Democrats are encouraged about their chances of
winning back the White House this year after eight years of Republican
control under President Bush.
But some Republicans are
pleasantly surprised at the closeness of the race given the public's
general unhappiness with the economy, the war in Iraq and Mr. Bush's
Quinnipiac University pollster Clay Richards says a
large number of voters apparently have already made up their minds
about which candidate to support in November.
"Between 75 and 80
percent of voters said that their minds are made up," he noted. "So,
the campaign, at this very early point, may come down to a battle for
about 20 to 25 percent of the voters, with the rest having already committed."
recent Quinnipiac poll in three crucial battleground states in November
found that economic concerns were pushing more working class voters to
support Obama. Those states were Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida, all
expected to be competitive in November.
Obama had trouble
winning working class support in his primary battles with former rival
Hillary Clinton, but pollster Clay Richards says he appears to be
making some inroads.
"Obama is doing better among them than
other Democratic candidates have done in the past," he added. "And if
he maintains this kind of lead, or this kind of balance among blue
collar whites, he will probably carry these three states."
John McCain finds himself in the difficult position of trying to
succeed an unpopular president from his own party at a time when
Americans are worried about the economy and rising fuel prices and
believe the country is headed in the wrong direction.
staked his presidential hopes on the belief that Americans would prefer
victory in the war in Iraq to a hasty withdrawal of U.S. troops.
pollster Peter Brown says Americans have concluded the Iraq war was not
worth the cost, but he adds that they remain divided on what to do next.
a 2-1 margin, voters think the war was a mistake," he noted. "But when
we asked them where do we want to go from here and give them two
choices. One, the McCain position of no fixed timetable for withdrawal
and make the decision based on the security situation on the ground,
and the Obama approach of a fixed timetable, they are basically split
down the middle."
Senator McCain will emphasize his experience
in the military and in Congress in the campaign, and will argue that
Obama has too little experience in foreign policy and national security
Brookings Institution political scholar Thomas Mann says Senator Obama has some work to do in that area.
people have doubts about his qualifications as commander in chief," he
explained. "So, he has a hurdle to clear, a threshold to reach that he
is trustworthy on matters pertaining to national security."
factor that could keep the election close is Senator McCain's proven
appeal to moderate and independent voters, who often tip the election
in favor of one candidate over another.
Democrats argue that McCain's close support of President Bush's policy on Iraq would lead to what they call a third Bush term.
analyst John Fortier of the American Enterprise Institute contends
McCain may be able to counter some of those expected Democratic
"McCain does have the ability to distance himself
from Bush, though, more than other Republicans," he said. "He is
not somebody with a newly found moderation. McCain goes a long way
back where he has been something of a maverick and opposing Bush, so I
think he is going to be more able to resist that sort of criticism."
also faces a lingering challenge in trying to shore up support among
conservative Republicans. Some conservatives distrust McCain and have
been unhappy in the past when he has disagreed with President Bush and
been critical of the Republican Party.