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New Polls Put US Presidential Race Even


Democratic presidential nominee Senator Barack Obama's long-standing lead in the race to the White House has disappeared. New polls are putting Republican nominee Senator John McCain statistically even with Obama, and in some surveys, ahead. The shift occurred after McCain picked for his vice presidential nominee a newcomer to national politics, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. VOA's Jeffrey Young has details.

Republican presidential nominee Senator John McCain has now closed a long-standing gap in public opinion polls against his Democratic Party rival, Senator Barack Obama.

Surveys conducted for national media outlets either put McCain even with Obama or slightly ahead. And one poll indicates that one big reason for that is a 20 percentage point shift to McCain among white women. That coincides with McCain's pick of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his vice presidential running mate.

That attention-getting move has recast the race according to analyst David Paul Kuhn. "There is an energy [now] to the Republican campaign, and there hasn't been this entire 2008 [presidential] campaign," Kuhn said.

John McCain is bolstering his campaign theme of shaking up Washington by positioning Sarah Palin as a fellow fighter of the status-quo. "I've been called a maverick. Now we have a team of mavericks!" McCain said.

The Obama campaign has responded derisively both in person and on TV.

OBAMA: "He's no maverick when he votes with [President George] Bush 90 percent of the time. And Sarah Palin is no maverick either. She was for the 'bridge to nowhere' [a controversial Alaska infrastructure project] before she was against it. Politicians lying about their records. You don't call that 'maverick.' You call that 'more of the same.'"

Tapping into a widespread public sentiment, the McCain-Palin team has made cutting Congressional spending, especially so-called "pork barrel" local projects which Capitol Hill refers to as "earmarks," a top priority if they win in November.

MCCAIN: "I am going to veto every pork barrel big spending bill."
PALIN: "We reformed the abuses of earmarks in our state [of Alaska]."

McCain and Palin have accused Barack Obama of seeking nearly a billion dollars worth of earmarks while in the Senate. When Palin was mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, incidentally, media reports say she pressed Washington for $27 million to her town of 6,700 people.

Speaking of pork, an American expression has suddenly become a hot issue between the Democrats and the Republicans. At a campaign stop Tuesday, Barack Obama dismissed the McCain-Palin campaign theme of "reform" by saying that is just "putting lipstick on a pig" - in other words, dressing something up that is basically undesirable.

Overnight, the McCain campaign created a new TV ad that puts Obama's remark next to one of Palin's comments, inferring that Obama was responding to her with a sexist barb.

PALIN: "[Do] you know the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull? Lipstick."
OBAMA: "You know, you can put lipstick on a pig [but] it is still a pig."

While some Republicans demand that Obama apologize to Palin for the lipstick remark, the senator made it clear on Wednesday that he considers this to be nothing but a way to keep voters distracted.

"Enough! I don't care what they [the McCain campaign] say about me, but I love this country too much to let them take over another election with lies and phony outrage and 'swift boat' [a political expression for unfounded attacks] politics. Enough is enough!" Obama said.

There are now just over seven weeks left before Election Day, November 4. With Senators McCain and Obama so close in the polls, an advertising industry publication reports that spending on TV and Internet ads, including attacks, is running at more than double the last presidential campaign.