Barack Obama's strong close in the 2008 campaign has been boosted by more than the shell-shocked economy and the Bush legacy. There's also Sarah Palin, and the concern she incites, especially among voters who are worried about John McCain's age.
Forty-six percent of likely voters now say having Palin on the ticket makes them less likely to support McCain -- up 14 points in just the past month and more than double what it was in early September. And among those who call the candidates' age an important factor in their vote, more, 61 percent, say Palin makes them less likely to back McCain.
Age in and of itself is a negative for McCain; 48 percent call it an important factor, and 71 percent of them prefer his opponent. Far fewer, by contrast, describe Obama's race as an important factor in their vote, and those who do so are no less likely to support him.
But there is a racial difference: Among whites who call race an important factor, Obama does less well; among nonwhites who call race important, Obama soars.
As reported Sunday night, Obama retains the overall lead in this ABC News/Washington Post poll, 54-43 percent among likely voters interviewed Wednesday through Saturday. Support for the candidates has run in a narrow band for weeks, with Obama at 52 to 54 percent in every ABC/Post poll since Oct. 11, McCain between 43 and 45 percent in that same period.
Other elements in this poll include a look at the level of final-week get-out-the-vote contacts, the extent of lobbying by family/friends, and an excitement/fear measure: No more likely voters are "scared" about the possibility of either Obama or McCain as president, and twice as many are "excited" about the prospect of Obama.
GOTV – There's been an extraordinary level of contacts by both campaigns, with a small advantage to Obama nationally but parity between the two in battleground and toss-up states. Overall, 26 percent of likely voters say they've been contacted directly by the Obama campaign, 21 percent by the McCain side -- tens of millions of personal contacts by both campaigns, either in person or by phone, e-mail or text message.
Contacts are higher in the 18 battleground states and five-toss-up states (Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, Missouri and Indiana) as identified by the ABC News Political Unit. McCain campaign contacts are reported by 35 percent in the battlegrounds and 38 percent in the toss-ups; Obama contacts, by 37 percent in both.
What matters, though, is not just the number of contacts but their targeting and/or effectiveness. There Obama has a very large advantage nationally: Among likely voters who report a contact by the Obama campaign 72 percent support him, while among those who report a McCain contact, 54 percent support the Republican.
This gap is narrower, however, in the battleground states: There Obama's supported by 66 percent of those who've been contacted by his campaign, and McCain's supported by 58 percent of those who've heard from him.