Relying on young voters is a risk for Obama (as it was for Kerry) given their uncertain turnout. What's essential, then, is his ability to battle McCain to a standstill among over-30s, a group Kerry lost by 7 points. And that has much to do with the economy.
Among all registered voters, 53 percent call the economy the single most important issue in their vote, much like the national figure, with all other answers in the single digits. And among likely voters, those focused on the economy favor Obama by 61-34 percent; among those who name any other issue, McCain leads, 57-38 percent.
Eighty-six percent of registered voters in Ohio are worried about the economy's direction, and 70 percent are worried about their own families' finances -- two more groups in which Obama has broad advantages. His lead peaks among those who are "very" worried, and that high-level worry is strongest in the important northeast region.
Economic worry at the personal, household level also peaks, naturally, among lower-income Ohioans. And notably, Obama holds a 10-point edge among working-class whites in the state, those with household incomes under $50,000 a year.
Obama's trouble connecting with working-class whites helped Hillary Clinton beat him in the Ohio primary. But now, among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents who'd preferred Clinton for the nomination, 82 percent prefer Obama to McCain. That's 10 points better than Obama's support among Clinton Democrats nationally.
There's another way in which the economy throws its weight in vote preferences: Ohioans divide closely on whether they care more about the candidates' personal qualities or their positions on the issues. Among likely voters more focused on personal qualities, McCain has a 62-34 percent lead. But among those more concerned with the issues -- the economy chief among them -- it's 65-30 percent for Obama.
Ohio isn't the only state where economic concern is boosting Obama. The same effect has appeared in national ABC/Post polls since Sept. 22, in an ABC/Post Virginia poll Sept. 21, and in a variety of state polls from other sources.
Head-to-head on issues, in this survey Obama leads McCain by 13 points, 52-39 percent, in trust to handle the economy, and by similar margins on creating jobs and in trust to handle taxes, a point of sharp contention between them. They're even in trust to handle a major crisis, and McCain's usual edges in trust to handle terrorism and the Iraq war are single-digit margins here. Obama's +8 on energy policy.
Personal attributes also differentiate the two. Obama connects especially in trust to bring needed change to Washington, a 2-1 lead over McCain; and in better understanding the economic problems people are having -- potentially an essential point given the level of concern, and a 53-35 percent Obama advantage, again much like the national figure.
Obama also has an 8-point edge as the stronger leader; and the two run closer -- about evenly -- on who better "shares your values," an opening for McCain.
McCain's best line of attack continues to be Obama's experience; while 52 percent of registered voters say he has the kind of experience it takes to serve effectively as president, a very substantial 46 percent say he does not. That result more than anything explains why Obama's advantage on the economy and other issues and attributes doesn't translate into a bigger lead over McCain in vote preference.