A just released poll from the LA Times and Bloomberg shows that the race between Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain continues to get tighter, Obama now holds a narrow two point lead. Surprisingly, 17% of those surveyed said that the nation isn’t ready for a black president.
What’s behind this decrease in Obama’s popularity? The poll shows that McCain’s endless negative attacks on Obama have dropped his approval rating from 59% to 48%, while at the same time his negative rating has gone from 27%-35%. McCain’s approval/disapproval ratings have held steady at 46% and 38% respectively.
The attacks on Obama’s patriotism are also working. 35% surveyed questioned how patriotic Obama is compared to 9% who questioned McCain’s patriotism. Almost half of those surveyed felt that Obama did not have the right experience to be president compared to 14% for McCain. Obama supporters are still more enthusiastic about him than are McCain’s by a margin 78%-61%, and the good news for Obama in this poll is that Independents still favor him 47%-36%.
There really isn’t anything surprising about these poll results. McCain has run a relentlessly negative campaign against Obama. It is common knowledge that in the short term negative campaigns work, which is what these results bear out. I doubt that McCain can continue to run a negative campaign all through the fall without experiencing some backlash.
In the last few days, Obama has been taking a more aggressive approach against McCain’s attacks. This is something that he is going to have to do if he wants to avoid falling into the same trap that captured both Al Gore and John Kerry. If anything these poll numbers reveal how important Obama’s running mate choice is. Obama needs somebody who can help him fight back against these attacks. He needs to ease the concerns about his experience, and he has to be stronger in foreign policy.
For those who thought that Obama was going to waltz through the general election, welcome to the real world. Anybody who has been around for the last two presidential campaigns knows that the United States is still a nation split down the middle. Independents will likely decide this presidential election, as they have the previous two. In 2000 and 2004, they went for the Republicans, but if Obama can maintain his lead with them, they will likely put him in the White House.