Close Race: McCain Stays in Range Amid Challenges for Obama

The latest ABC News/Washington Post poll underscores the conundrum of the 2008 presidential election: If everything is so good for Barack Obama, why isn't everything so good for Barack Obama?

Disapproval of George W. Bush has reached a record high for any president in modern polls, a record number of Americans say the country is on the wrong track, Democrats hold a significant advantage in partisan affiliation and Obama leads John McCain on a range of issues and personal attributes, as well as in sheer enthusiasm.

Click here for a PDF with charts and full questionnaire.

Yet Obama has less of a head-to-head advantage against McCain than these views would imply.

Among all Americans, Obama leads by a fairly narrow 6 points; among those most likely to vote -- an estimate that it's admittedly early to make -- the two are locked in a dead heat.

In generic preference in local congressional elections, by contrast, the Democrats lead the Republicans by 15 points, a wide 52-37 percent, among all adults.

Obama's advantage vs. McCain is about the same as in an ABC/Post poll last month -- no bounce from Obama's victory in the long-fought Democratic nomination campaign.

No Post-Clinton Bounce for Obama

One of the challenges for Obama in terms of likely voters is the fact that his support relies heavily on young adults, whose turnout on Election Day is far less reliable than their elders'.

He leads McCain by more than a 2-1 margin among Americans under 30; that shifts to a tie among middle-aged adults, and a McCain advantage among seniors.

Obama, more broadly, also faces significant unease with his resume, with just half of Americans, 50 percent, saying he's experienced enough to serve as president. Forty-six percent think that's not so, a large number to lose on the basic question of qualifications.

Also, in the two most reliable swing voter groups in presidential elections, Obama and McCain run evenly among independents, and McCain leads by 14 points among white Catholics. (In a shift, McCain's doing better this month than last among women, particularly married white women, while Obama's doing better among men.)

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. Those are essentially unchanged from an ABC/Post poll last month, before Clinton suspended her campaign and offered Obama a fulsome endorsement.

Obama is not disproportionately weaker among Clinton supporters who comprised her core groups, such as women, seniors and working-class whites. Instead he's losing those who value strength and experience over change, who doubt Obama's qualifications and who see him as a risky choice – mirroring his challenges among all adults more broadly.

Given his shortfall among Clinton supporters, Obama overall loses slightly more Democrats to McCain -- 14 percent -- than the number of Republicans defecting from McCain to Obama, 9 percent. As noted, independents split evenly.

With Election Day nearly five months away, there's time yet for more Clinton supporters to line up behind their party's presumptive nominee. His fortunes may rely on it.

Fundamentals Favor Obama

For all these challenges, Obama retains strong fundamentals on issues and attributes, with highly motivated support and broad general appeal.

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