Obama's 'Bounce' Falling Flat

Follow the bouncing ball in Obamaland . . .

Al Gore ends the suspense (a break with Lieberman, sure -- but did anyone else feel underwhelmed?). . . .

Patti Solis Doyle restarts the intrigue (and the rumbling -- does this mark the end of the "dream"?). . . .

Sen. Barack Obama tacks center -- and also left (and Sen. John McCain grabs a new opening on national security). . . .

Obama gets his passport ready (but is McCain acting as his travel agent?). . . .

If this is the high point in the "bounce," someone needs to put some more air in the ball. The new ABC News-Washington Post poll shows Sen. Barack Obama narrowly leading Sen. John McCain, 48-42 -- about where his lead stood a month ago, and about where Sen. John Kerry's lead stood four years ago at this time.

The premium Obama, D-Ill., earned for surviving the primaries -- as confirmed now by a number of recent polls -- still leaves McCain, R-Ariz., well within striking distance.

Surely it's getting tiresome for Obama to have to continually confront his electoral challenges -- but the fact remains that something is preventing him from capitalizing fully on the sour national mood toward Republicans.

It's "the conundrum of the 2008 presidential election: If everything is so good for Barack Obama, why isn't everything so good for Barack Obama?" per ABC Polling Director Gary Langer.

"In a shift, McCain's doing better this month than last among women, particularly married white women, while Obama's doing better among men," Langer writes. "Obama has work to do in his base, as well: Among Democrats who supported Hillary Clinton for president, about one in four, 24 percent, prefer McCain over Obama, and 13 percent pick someone else or say they wouldn't vote."

As in previous polls, McCain is having more success locking down support among Republicans than Obama is among Democrats.

"It is closer than it should be," ABC's George Stephanopoulos said on "Good Morning America" Tuesday. "Senator Clinton's supporters are still holding back."

"Obama and McCain are even among political independents, a shift toward the presumptive Republican nominee over the past month," Dan Balz and Jon Cohen write in The Washington Post. "On the issues, independents see McCain as more credible on fighting terrorism and are split evenly on who is the stronger leader and better on the Iraq war. . . . The presumptive Democratic nominee emerged from his primary-season battle against Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton with improved personal ratings overall, but with no appreciable gain in the head-to-head competition with McCain." l

Obama, on why he's not leading comfortably,in an interview with ABC's Jake Tapper: "You know, my understanding is the current polls show me up, despite the fact that we went through an extraordinary primary. I mean, we went through a long, long contest. And Senator Clinton was a formidable and terrific candidate. And so while we were doing that, John McCain basically was getting a pass, both from the media, from you guys, as well as from other opponents. And so I think that that explains it."

And yet . . . political soothsayers can delight in explaining the latest high-profile staffing move by Obama.

It was a big day for hiring in Obamaland -- with enough boldfaced names to hold our interest. Kerry '04 veteran Stephanie Cutter gets the Michelle account (welcome back to the war room), and Jim Messina becomes the new campaign chief of staff (whatever that means).

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