Obama opens double-digit lead as Palin loses shine

October 22nd, 2008 - 10:13 am ICT by IANS  

Barack ObamaWashington, Oct 22 (IANS) As the US presidential race enters the home stretch, Democratic nominee Barack Obama has opened up a double-digit lead, with rival Republican candidate John McCain’s running mate Sarah Palin losing shine, a new poll shows.A growing number of voters say they’re now comfortable with Obama’s values, background and ability to serve as commander in chief, according to a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll.

The poll suggests that the McCain campaign’s attacks stoking concerns about Obama’s past and his qualifications, raising questions about his character and his association with 1960s-era radical William Ayers, haven’t worked.

Though most voters polled said that McCain is better prepared for the White House than the first-term senator from Illinois, there are increasing concerns about the readiness of Republican vice presidential candidate, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin.

Overall, the poll found 52 percent of voters favour Obama, the first African-American to run on a major party ticket, versus 42 percent for McCain. That 10-point lead is up from a six-point Obama edge two weeks ago.

The survey of registered voters, conducted from Friday to Monday, has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.9 percentage points, the Journal said.

It’s the largest lead in the Journal/NBC poll thus far, and represents a steady climb for Obama since early September, when the political conventions concluded with the candidates in a statistical tie.

“Voters have reached a comfort level with Barack Obama,” said Peter D. Hart, a Democratic pollster who conducts the poll with Republican Neil Newhouse.

Forty-four percent of voters see McCain in a positive light, about the same as the last poll two weeks ago. But views of Obama have grown stronger, with 56 percent now reporting very or somewhat positive feelings about him.

The one candidate whose popularity has fallen is Palin: 38 percent see her positively, down from 44 percent two weeks ago; 47 percent see her negatively, up 10 points from the last poll.

That’s the highest negative rating of the four candidates. Fifty-five percent of voters say Palin is not qualified to be president if the need arises, up from 50 percent two weeks ago.

For his part, McCain holds a distinct edge on the question of experience needed to be an effective president. Asked which candidate is better on knowledge and experience needed to handle the job, 49 percent picked McCain and just 27 percent picked Obama.

The McCain campaign says it plans to continue pressing the experience question. “There is lingering doubt - is he ready?” Mike DuHaime, the campaign’s political director, told the Journal Tuesday.

Independent voters still harbour concerns about Obama’s experience and readiness for the job, Newhouse, the Republican pollster, noted. But he said these voters have reservations about Palin’s readiness, complicating any effort by the McCain campaign to focus on this issue.

Some daily tracking polls have found a tighter race between McCain and Obama in recent days. Real Clear Politics, a Web site that averages major polls, shows Obama up by 7.2 percentage points.

Others have found a larger spread, such as one released Tuesday by the Pew Research Centre for the People & the Press, a non-partisan research group. That poll found a 14-point advantage for Obama among registered voters.

Many polls also show McCain lagging in key battleground states, which hold the electoral votes that could decide the race.

It’s a tough year to run as a Republican after eight years of President George Bush, said David Axelrod, Obama’s chief strategist. “They’re just on the wrong side of history,” he said in an interview with the Journal. “In an election that’s all about change he simply doesn’t represent it.”

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