The U.S. presidential election is more than four months
away. But the contest between Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain
is already shaping up as a clear choice between change and experience. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has a
preview of the general election campaign from Washington.
With the primary battles over, Barack Obama is
focused now on his Republican opponent, John McCain, and the quest to become
the first African-American president.
"There are independents and
Republicans who understand that this election isn't just about the party in
charge of Washington, it's about the need to change Washington," Obama said.
Senator McCain, if he wins in November, would be the
oldest first term president in history, but he hopes to emphasize his extensive experience in
the military and in Congress.
"I admire and respect Senator
Obama," McCain said, "but he does not have the
knowledge, background or judgment to lead this nation in these difficult and
challenging times, and I do."
Obama heads into the election campaign with a slight lead
in the polls. Voter worries should benefit Obama, says Thomas Mann
of the Brookings Institution.
"Because of a very unpopular Republican
president, a public that believes overwhelmingly that the country is off on the
wrong track, deep concerns about the health of the economy and an unpopular war
in Iraq," he said.
Polls also show Obama gaining, in some states, with
white working-class voters. They preferred Hillary Clinton during the Democratic
Quinnipiac University pollster Clay Richards
believes, "At this point, an awful lot of those working class voters see
Senator Obama as the best candidate to turn the economy around, and that is the
most important issue in their mind and overcomes their tendency to vote for the
GOP [Republican] candidate in other races."
Senator McCain says he has an uphill climb to the
He adds, "I know I have to out-campaign my
opponent in every respect, and so I do not underestimate. I consider myself an underdog."
McCain has a history of appealing to political
moderates and that will make him competitive, says Thomas Mann.
Mann says, "Because of his fascinating
biography, his reputation for character and independence."
McCain's status as a war hero could appeal to voters
concerned about protecting the country from terrorism. That could give him an
advantage over Obama.
"Some people have doubts about his
qualifications as commander in chief," says Mann. "So, he has a hurdle to clear, a threshold to reach that he is
trustworthy on matters pertaining to national security."
The economy, rising fuel prices, health care and Iraq
are expected to be the major issues in the campaign. Americans will elect their next president on November 4.