Obama Leads in Horse Race, Lags on Foreign Policy

Foreign policy dominated the campaign trail today, with Barack Obama delivering a speech highlighting his key national security goals and his differences with John McCain on Iraq and Afghanistan and McCain firing back with his own national security speech where he hammered Obama for not supporting the surge in Iraq and for laying out his strategy before his trip to Iraq and Afghanistan.

The latest ABC News/Washington Post poll shows that perceptions about Obama's foreign policy experience are fostering doubts about his readiness to serve as commander-in-chief, while Americans overwhelmingly pick McCain as more knowledgeable on the subject and rate him ahead of Obama on how they trust to handle "an unexpected major crisis."

ABC News Polling Director Gary Langer reports that while Obama continues to lead McCain in most areas (enthusiasm, level of partisanship, personal qualities, and trust on top domestic issues, including the No. 1 issue, the economy), Obama's "experience gap" versus McCain is especially notable in foreign affairs.

If the election boils down to the economy and domestic issues, the Obama campaign can feel pretty good about where they stand. Per Langer, "Obama remains strong on the home front. He leads McCain by 19 points in trust to handle the economy, 14 points on the deficit and 10 points on immigration, the latter a turnaround from a McCain lead in the spring."

But as the McCain campaign tries its darnedest to put national security issues front and center, the polling data shows that Obama still has questions to answer as he makes his case that he is the better choice to be commander-in-chief. With just 16 precious weeks until Election Day, the presumptive Democratic nominee is taking time off the campaign trail to talk to military commanders on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan and meet and greet with leaders in Europe and the Middle East in an effort to shore up his foreign policy credentials. The publicity surrounding the trip may give Obama a needed boost if his campaign emphasizes one data point in this poll: Americans by 2-1 think he's better able to restore America's image abroad, overwhelmingly seen as having been damaged by George W. Bush.

(And for the horse race poll junkies: Obama leads McCain among registered voters 50-42 but that lead narrows considerably among likely voters, 49-46.)

On Wednesday Obama continues his focus on national security in the lead up to his trip abroad later this month. The campaign is billing tomorrow's event at Purdue University in West Lafayette as a "summit on confronting 21st century threats." The candidate gave his own sneak peek at his Wednesday remarks in his speech today, noting that he will discuss in more detail "new defenses to protect against the 21st century threat of biological weapons and cyber-terrorism."

The Obama campaign is certainly showing a lot of love to the Hoosier State this week: the presumptive Democratic nominee was introduced in Washington DC today by Lee Hamilton and the campaign released a new ad on national security today highlighting Obama's work across the aisle with Indiana Republican Sen. Dick Lugar

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