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
Tomorrow Obama will be joined on the campaign trail by IN Sen. Evan Bayh. This is the first Obama campaign appearance for Bayh, who was a strong vocal supporter for Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary. So far Bayh has demurred on his chances for the vice-presidential slot on the Obama ticket, saying he loves his current day job, but has not ruled out the possibility as others have done.
"Senator Bayh can help reiterate the kind of experience that Senator Obama brings to the presidency and also the leadership that he takes on issues," Jonathan Swain, spokesman for Obama's Indiana campaign, told ABC News' Matt Jaffe.
Jaffe reports that Wednesday's event will also feature another rumored vice-presidential possibility for Obama – former Sen. Sam Nunn.
McCain follows up Obama's speech (and warm reception) at the NAACP on Monday night with his own speech at the group's convention speech in Cincinnati, OH. The McCain campaign is probably not expecting to make any significant dent in Obama's overwhelming support among African-Americans, but he gets points for going (President Bush only spoke to the NAACP twice – as a candidate in 2000 and then in 2006, post-Hurricane Katrina). McCain is expected to outline his plan for expanding opportunities through education proposals. He also has a media availability scheduled prior to the speech.
Obama sat down for interviews after his national security speech today, including one with Gwen Ifill of PBS' NewsHour. When Ifill pressed him on his recent shifts on policy issues, Obama said that the notion that he has had "wild shifts" in his positions is "simply inaccurate." But he did acknowledge a "shift in emphasis."
"I think is a pretty hard case to make that somehow I've been shifting substantially relative to John McCain," Obama said, citing McCain's positions on immigration, the Bush tax cuts and oil drilling. He maintained that he has been consistent on gun issues and said that his shift on public financing was in response to the outside money on the Republican side.
Obama will also talk foreign policy on CNN's Larry King Live tonight.
Humor Alert! Tune in to The Tonight Show with Jay Leno tonight for the latest political web spoof from the folks at JibJab, Greg Spiridellis and Evan Spiridellis.
On the campaign front. . .
-- 10:00 am ET: Speaks to reporters outside the Straight Talk Express, Cincinnati, OH.
-- 11:30 am ET: Speaks at the NAACP convention, Cincinnati, OH.
-- 12:00 pm ET: Attends summit on confronting 21st century threats, West Lafayette, IN.
At the White House. . .
-- 3:45 pm ET: Attends a white house tee ball game on the South Lawn.
-- 7:35 pm ET: Hosts social dinner in honor of Major League Baseball in the State Dining room.
-- 8:40 pm ET: Attends entertainment in the Rose Garden.
POLITICAL NEWS STORIES ON ABCNEWS.COM
ABC News' Jennifer Parker: Obama, McCain Spar on Iraq Policy LINK
ABC News' Ron Claiborne: McCain, Obama Struggle to Reign in Surrogates LINK
ABC News' Jennifer Duck: McCain Slams Obama on Iraq Surge LINK
ABC News' Jennifer Parker: Flip Flop? Obama Acknowledges 'Shift in Emphasis' LINK
ABC News' Jake Tapper: McCain-Olbermann 2008? LINK
ABC News' Alice Gomstyn: Bush Tries to Calm Economic Jitters; Paulson: No 'Immediate' Freddie, Fannie Aid LINK
ABC News' Jake Tapper: Obama Informs NAACP His Election Will Not End Racism LINK
ABC News' Jennifer Parker: McCain, Obama Fight for Latino Voters LINK
ABC News' Jake Tapper: Hot Mic Moment Catches Obama in Private Chat LINK
ABC's Z. Byron Wolf: Republicans Want Report on Obama's Trip Abroad LINK
ABC News' Jake Tapper: The Success of the Surge Seemingly Puts Obama on the Defensive LINK
ABC News' Tom Shine: Holy Patrick Leahy, Batman! LINK
ABC News Jake Tapper: McCain Keeps Mentioning Country That Hasn't Existed Since 1992 LINK
ABC News' Gary Langer: McCain Tops Obama in Commander-in-Chief Test; Stays Competitive on Iraq LINK
ABC News' Jake Tapper: McCain Campaign Finds Hillary's Anti-Obama Playbook Helpful LINK
ABC News' Gary Langer: Bush Hits New Low: Ties Carter Approval LINK
POLITICAL VIDEO ON ABCNEWS.COM Sam: 'I Like Rick Wagoner' ABC News' Sam Donaldson offers his take on General Motors' difficult times. LINK
McCain Attacks Obama on War Policy McCain hits Obama for setting a strategy before assessing facts on the ground. LINK
Obama Clarifies Iraq Stance Obama addresses McCain's charge that the Democrat has flip-flopped on the war. LINK
'View' Fights Over McCain Jokes Is there a double standard when joking about the Ariz. senator? LINK
Bush: If I Had a Magic Wand... The president says there isn't a quick solution to combat the rising gas prices. LINK
Hasselbeck: Obama's Identity Crisis "View" co-host believes the senator has difficulty defining himself to voters. LINK
Obama Talks Responsibility With NAACP Despite Jesse Jackson's criticism, the senator stands by his message. LINK
Bush: Take a Deep Breath Bush assures Americans the "system is sound" and the gov't is taking action. LINK
'View': Are Black Jokes a No-No? The ladies discuss how far you can go in joking about Barack Obama. LINK
Obama to NAACP: 'I Won't Stop Talking' The senator continues to discuss responsibility in the black community. LINK
Tough Choice Who are the 10 worst Republican choices for vice president? LINK
Comedy Comes Under Fire A satirical "New Yorker" magazine cover sets off a political firestorm. LINK
Gitmo Interrogation Video Released A lawyer has made public a video of his client's questioning. LINK