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Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Obama opens up eight-point lead against McCain

Barack Obama jumped to his biggest lead since late July in public opinion polls, after his speech to more than 75,000 people in a Denver football stadium when he accepted the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination.

Republican John McCain showed off his vice presidential running mate, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin in this city, yesterday as Mr Obama’s campaign aired a new TV ad urging voters not be distracted by McCain putting a woman on the GOP ticket.

At the same time, their campaign unveiled a 30-second national TV ad that says Mr McCain’s selection of Ms Palin should not obscure the fact that Mr McCain candidacy represents a continuation of President Bush ‘s policies. “So, while this may be his running mate,” an announcer says with a photo of Palin on the screen, “America knows this is McCain’s agenda.” The visual then switches to a shot of McCain and Bush. “We can’t afford four more years of the same.” Mr Obama himself offered a non-committal assessment of Palin during a television interview. Speaking during a taping of CBS’ “60 Minutes,” Mr Obama said Ms Palin “Obviously, she’s a fine mother and an up and coming public servant” but added “It’s too early for me to gauge what kind of running mate she’ll be. My sense is that she subscribes to John McCain’s agenda.”

Meanwhile, how long Mr Obama holds the lead in polls is open to question, as voters react to Mr McCain’s surprise selection of Mr Palin for his running mate and Republicans begin their nominating convention tomorrow in St Paul, Minnesota. Mr Obama leads McCain 49-41 per cent in the most recent Gallup Poll daily tracking survey, which measured voter sentiment during a three-day period ending on August 28. The presidential contenders had been tied at 45 per cent in the last Gallup tracking results before the Democrats started their Colorado convention.

The 8 percentage-point lead almost matches Mr Obama’s biggest margin of the campaign, a 9-point bulge in tracking polls conducted July 24-26, Gallup said. Mr Obama’s Denver speech on August 28 attracted 38.4 million television viewers, 57 per cent more than the audience in 2004, when Massachusetts Senator John Kerry accepted the party’s presidential nomination, according to Nielsen Co.

In a separate USA Today/Gallup poll conducted on August 29, about 40 per cent of respondents said they consider Ms Palin, a 44- year-old first-term governor, qualified to be president – the lowest level since President George H.W. Bush picked Indiana Senator Dan Quayle as his running mate in 1988. One-third of the people surveyed don’t think Ms Palin is qualified, and the rest had no opinion. By comparison, 57 per cent of Americans considered Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Biden qualified to take the top office if necessary, with 18 per cent doubting his qualifications.

Ms Palin may not attract large numbers of disillusioned supporters of Hillary Clinton. Only nine per cent of Democratic women said Palin makes them more likely to support the Republican ticket; 15 percent were less likely to back Mr McCain. Among all women, 20 per cent said Ms Palin’s selection made them more likely to vote for Mr McCain and 11 per cent were less likely. Half of those polled had never heard of Ms Palin before her selection, the Gallup/USA Today poll found.

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