Obama, McCain Spar on Gas Prices, National Security

We'll know we're past a tipping point in foreign policy if what's old can no longer be made new. (Yes, we are framing another election around 9/11 -- but who's happier this time?)

We'll know we're past a tipping point in energy policy if what's being sold can be made new. (Yes, Sen. John McCain has an ally in President Bush -- for better and/or worse still relevant when he wants to be. Can the GOP turn the gas-price issue to the party's own terms? And does anyone think the Democrats would be able to change course as efficiently, effectively, and extensively?).

We'll know we're reaching a tipping point in the Democratic Party's civil war if there's a second chance for a first (joint) impression. (Only eight more days to let the expectations build!)

We'll know we're at a tipping point in the nation if one party takes a commanding edge in all three of the big-prize battleground states. (A new Quinnipiac poll has one leader -- and it may not be the leader you expect.)

And we'll know we're at a tipping point in the nation's relationship with its presidential spouses if the would-be first ladies can complete their planned makeovers. (Maybe we can just let them settle this race: Cindy McCain's recipes vs. Michelle Obama's pride).

By the numbers in the coverage-shaping Q-poll: It's Sen. Barack Obama across the board, though narrowly, in the big swing states.

He's up 48-42 in Ohio, 52-40 in Pennsylvania, and 47-43 in Florida (!). From the press release out Wednesday morning: "This is the first time Sen. Obama has led in all three states."

By the numbers in the intrigue-building spouses' poll: Michelle Obama's numbers are stronger than Cindy McCain's.

"The early edge is Michelle Obama's, in favorable views and intensity of sentiment alike. But there are sharp differences among groups, and plenty of room to move for the less well-known Cindy McCain," ABC Polling Director Gary Langer writes. "Forty-eight percent of Americans in a new ABC News/Washington Post poll see Obama favorably, vs. 39 percent for McCain, a 9-point Obama advantage. Slightly more, though, also view Obama unfavorably -- 29 percent vs. McCain's 25 percent."

The wives take center stage this week, with Michelle Obama co-hosting "The View" Wednesday and Cindy McCain traveling to Asia (including Vietnam) for charity work. (ABC News' Kate Snow will have an interview with Mrs. McCain on Thursday's "Good Morning America.")

But first -- some big rhetorical movement. McCain adviser Randy Scheunemann was the first to raise 9/11, arguing that Obama's comments to ABC about the need to prosecute terrorists help make Obama the "perfect manifestation of a Sept. 10 mind-set."

Responded Obama, per ABC's Jake Tapper: "What they are trying to do is what they've done every election cycle, which is to use terrorism as a club to make the American people afraid -- to win elections."

"The exchange marked the general election's first real engagement over the campaign against terrorism and demonstrated that both sides are confident that they have a winning message on the issue," write The Washington Post's Anne Kornblut and Karen DeYoung. "Obama has shown himself far more eager than [Sen. John] Kerry and other Democrats to challenge the Republicans on the issue."

This debate started last week with the Supreme Court decision, and after a slow start Team McCain likes the lay of this land.

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