"Obama improved sharply over the last month among independent voters, a much-desired bloc. McCain carried them by a 15-point margin in September; in this poll, Obama led by 5 points," Cathleen Decker writes in the Los Angeles Times. "Men, too, moved toward Obama, with the traditionally Republican-leaning group now in his camp. He also maintained his lead among women."
Key point: "The survey underscored the predicament in which McCain finds himself: Much of his recent effort has been aimed at shifting focus from the economy to questions he has raised about Obama's character. But the nation's financial difficulties are swamping all other issues. And tactics that McCain employed to fuel Republican enthusiasm, such as the Palin selection, have alienated other key groups."
What can McCain do? Some consistency would be a start. "They are not understanding this election at all," Democratic strategist Chris Kofinis tells The Hill's Sam Youngman. "This is a drowning campaign reaching for anything. The thing they don't understand is they keep pouring water on themselves."
Speaking of pouring it on: "In the first three weeks of September, Barack Obama ran 1,342 television commercials in the Washington media market that reaches heavily populated and contested Northern Virginia. According to The Nielsen Company, in the same period and market, John McCain aired just eight commercials on broadcast stations," Politico's Jeanne Cummings reports. "As of close of business last week, Obama had spent approximately $195 million on primary and general election ads compared with $99 million by the Arizona Republican and the Republican National Committee, according to the Competitive Media Analysis Group."
Might Obama be in the midst of a $100 million month? "Obama is building a significant fundraising advantage and is now using that imbalance to swamp McCain on the airwaves and in building turnout operations coast to coast," The Washington Post's Matthew Mosk reports. "Voters in large swaths of Florida will see Obama television commercials dozens of times before catching sight of a McCain ad. A drive across Virginia will wend past 51 Obama field offices, compared with 19 for McCain."
Another bad sign for McCain (again -- who is right where who wants him?): "Talk about having to play defense in the waning days of the campaign. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., is scheduled to make stops in Miami and Melbourne, Fla., this Friday. He flies Friday night to Charlotte, N.C., presumably to campaign Saturday in the Tar Heel state," ABC's Ron Claiborne reports. "It is not a favorable sign for the McCain campaign that he is still trying to nail down these two traditionally Republican states."
A test run for the next session? "Buoyed by a slew of recent polls showing that the economy has boosted Obama (Ill.) and Democrats in the House and Senate, Democratic leaders in Congress are aggressively posturing to steamroll Republicans over the economy in the coming weeks," The Hill's Jared Allen writes. "While they have made it clear that they want Obama in the driver's seat, congressional Democrats are providing the horsepower for a potential $300 billion economic stimulus bill that could be five times the size of the package approved by the House in September."
Next step: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., holds a news conference in Nevada Wednesday to call for the new economic recovery package -- designed to create jobs, fight foreclosures, and cut taxes.