Sen. Barack Obama has emerged from his bruising battle for the Democratic presidential nomination with only a six point lead over Sen. John McCain and claiming his Republican rival has been getting a "pass" from the media.
A ABC News/Washington Post poll shows Obama, D-Ill., leading McCain, R-Ariz., by a margin of 48 percent to 42 percent. It is a surprisingly small lead considering that the incumbent Republican president George Bush is at record lows and public opinion overwhelmingly feels the country is on the "wrong track".
No Bounce, Resistance from Clinton Supporters
The poll indicates that Obama did not get the traditional "bounce" in the public's opinion by finally defeating Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., and getting her endorsement as the Democratic presidential candidate.
While leading among young voters and other key demographics, ABC News chief Washington correspondent George Stephanopoulos saw what he called "danger signs" for Obama.
In an exclusive network interview with ABC News, Obama said that his long Democratic primary battle with Clinton, which wasn't settled until early June, spared McCain critical scrutiny.
"While we were doing that, John McCain basically was getting a pass, both from the media . . . as well as from other opponents. And so I think that explains it," said Obama of the close race.
It is an ironic accusation from Obama.
During the bitter Democratic fight, the Clinton camp repeatedly complained that Obama was getting a pass from the media.
Obama Targets Key Groups
Obama has been trying to shore up key components of the geographic and demographic components he will need to win the presidency.
He accepted the endorsement Monday night of former vice president and global warming guru Al Gore in Detroit. It was the second major endorsement Obama staged in the key state of Michigan, having announced the backing of former presidential contender John Edwards in Michigan as well.
Obama was trying to make up for lost time in the swing state because he had avoided Michigan during the primaries as the Democratic Party punished the state for holding its primary earlier than the party wanted.
Obama also tried to head off any inroads McCain might make among women voters by arguing on GMA that "on almost every single issue that's important to women, he [McCain] has been on the wrong side."
"You know, he's in favor of judges who would overturn Roe v. Wade. He has opposed equal pay," Obama said, and charged that McCain also fought a program to insure children and to protect women from discrimination.
Women, particularly married white women, however, may be a problem for Obama, according to the Washington Post/ABC poll.
It showed that McCain has a 20 point advantage over Obama among married white women, a group that George Bush also won in the last two presidential elections.
Stephanopoulos told GMA that the figure was a "danger sign" for Obama. "This is a huge gap that Obama has to close if he's going to do well."
Question of Experience
Obama faces an additional problem that only half of the voters saying he has the necessary experience to be president.
"If you look at the key question of experience, that may be what's holding him back," Stephanopoulos said. "Only 50 percent of voters say that Barack Obama has the experience to be president. A full 46 percent say, no, he doesn't have the experience . . . That's one of the reasons they are going on the foreign trips."
Obama has talked publicly about going to Iraq, but ABC News has learned that he is adding Afghanistan to his travel itinerary.
The crucial political battle appears to be shaping up around independent voters between the age of 30 and 64.
"Those middle of the road independent voters, they are breaking right down the middle," Stephanopoulos said. "This is going to be a key battleground for both campaigns going into November."
While Obama runs well among younger voters, they are not always reliable when it comes to showing up at the polls. Meanwhile, he is 12 points behind McCain among the more reliable older voters.
In addition, nearly a quarter of Clinton's voters are holding back on their support, according to the ABC News/Washington Post poll.
"If that number stays that high, it will be difficult for Barack Obama to win," Stephanopoulos said.