Two new LA Times/ Bloomberg polls released today of Ohio and Florida show Barack Obama leading John McCain, 49%-40% in Ohio, and 50%-43% in Florida, but the most telling statistic might be that 7% of those asked thought that Obama was a Muslim.
One of the most interesting aspects of the Ohio poll is that McCain’s Joe the Plumber working class argument is not working with registered voters there. Among white, working class voters, Obama leads McCain, 52%-38%. Ninety percent of registered Buckeye State voters said that the economy is going badly, and 50% listed the economy as their top issue. By a margin of 50%-38% they trust Obama more than McCain to make the right decisions on the economy.
What has got to be the most frustrating part of this poll for Obama is that 7% of the registered voters questioned thought that Obama was a Muslim. Nearly fifty percent of those surveyed in Ohio, and 44% in Florida did not know what Obama’s religion was. There are two ways of looking at this. On one hand the Obama camp has got to be somewhat happy that even with these questions about his religion, he is still leading. This is evidence that people are more focused on change and the economy than race and religion.
On the flip side, the McCain campaign probably sees an opportunity to exploit. If they can convince voters through direct mail and robocall tactics that Obama is a Muslim, those people who aren’t certain about Obama’s religion might end up voting for McCain. Should this happen, both of these states are in play. My hunch is that people are more concerned about the economy, than they are about Obama’s religion, but the McCain camp is hoping that if they can manufacture enough fear about Obama, then they may have a chance.
Outside of tattooing I am not a Muslim on his forehead, I don’t know what Obama can do to let these people know that he is a Christian. I think that his religion and race might have mattered in a different election in a better time, but Americans are looking for someone to provide leadership on the economy, and this is an area where John McCain has been a total failure. What Obama has working in his favor is that the more people see and hear from him, the more doubts he erases.
I don’t think that anyone should be surprised if the two candidates split Ohio and Florida. My original prediction was that Obama would win Ohio and McCain would win Florida, but I am not so sure now. McCain has been spending so much time in Ohio, and Obama has stayed solid in Florida, that it wouldn’t really surprise if my prediction flipped. It will be a big night for Obama if he wins both states, but that looks more likely than McCain holding on to both of them.