These, in sum, provide a blueprint to the campaigns' likely approaches: McCain to stress the experience issue, to try to capitalize on his competitiveness on shared values and to press his advantage on trust to handle terrorism, Bush's winning issue in 2004; and Obama, to push hard on the economy, change and Bush.
One somewhat delicate point in the economic debate is the financial plan passed by Congress on Friday. Both candidates supported it, but Ohioans divide -- 45 percent in favor, 49 percent opposed. (It was similar nationally last week.) The plan's opponents in Ohio split evenly between the two candidates; supporters favor Obama by 12 points.
After the debate last week, the effect of the vice presidential candidates also looks much like it did pre-debate nationally. Sarah Palin does not appear to help her ticket overall; 31 percent of registered voters say she makes them less apt to back McCain, vs. 25 percent more likely, a slight 6-point net negative. Joe Biden runs 12 points positive: Twenty-six percent more likely, 14 percent less so.
Partisanship, and vote preferences among swing independents, are worth dissecting. Thirty-six percent of likely voters identify themselves as Democrats, 32 percent as independents and 28 percent as Republicans -- substantially more independents and fewer Republicans than in the 2004 Ohio exit poll (when they accounted for 21 and 40 percent, respectively). The number of Democrats is about the same.
That's apparently because some 2004 Republicans, in the current climate, are more apt to identify themselves as independents. In 2004 Kerry won independents by 58-41 percent. Today they're splitting essentially evenly, indicating that there are more Republican-leaning voters in their ranks.
At the same time, fewer likely voters in this poll are under 30 (16 percent) than were identified as such in the 2004 exit poll (21 percent), and union voters are fewer in number -- two strong Obama groups. All such variables fuel the aggregate estimate.
This ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted by telephone Oct. 3-5, 2008, among a random sample of 1,010 adults in Ohio including oversamples of African Americans and 18- to 29-year-olds (weighted to their correct share of the Ohio population), for a total of 134 black respondents and 166 18- to 29-year olds. Results among the 891 registered voters and 772 likely voters surveyed have a 3.5-point error margin. Sampling, data collection and tabulation by TNS of Horsham, PA.