Close Race: McCain Stays in Range Amid Challenges for Obama

He leads McCain in trust to handle seven of 11 issues tested in this survey, generally by wide margins; McCain has an edge in just two, and by a large margin only on terrorism.

Obama, similarly, leads McCain by double-digit margins on four of five personal attributes, and he's moved into a tie with McCain on the fifth, stronger leadership, a quality on which McCain led by 11 points in March.

In another sharp difference, Americans are far more apt to think Obama would adequately represent the interests of middle-class Americans (66 percent) than to think McCain would do so (44 percent). Nearly half say McCain would do "too little" for the middle class; just 22 percent say that about Obama.

Fifty-five percent of adults, moreover, call themselves "enthusiastic" about Obama's candidacy, 28 percent "very" enthusiastic – 13 and 19 points more than say so about McCain. Strikingly, among Obama's own supporters, 54 percent are very enthusiastic about him; among McCain's, just 17 percent say the same about their candidate.

Further, 63 percent of Americans now view Obama favorably vs. just 33 percent unfavorably, matching his best to date on this most basic measure of personal popularity. At the same time, nearly as many, 56 percent view McCain favorably, 39 percent unfavorably. That's notably good for McCain, given that just 38 percent believe he'd lead the country in a direction different from that of the highly unpopular President Bush.

Bush Disapproval Hits New Low

Obama should be aided by the Republican Party's troubles.

Given economic discontent (and $4 gas) atop the unpopular Iraq war, Bush's job approval rating has sunk to a new low in ABC/Post polls, 29 percent; 68 percent now disapprove, the highest in any presidential approval poll dating to Gallup's first in 1938 (surpassing Harry Truman's 67 percent disapproval and Richard Nixon's 66).

Fifty-four percent "strongly" disapprove, a new high, dwarfing the 10 percent who strongly approve. Among other groups, Bush is at record lows in his own party and among conservatives.

Separately, and for the same reasons, a remarkable 84 percent say the country is seriously off on the wrong track, a record high in polls since the early 1970s. The previous high was 83 percent in June 1992, the summer before Bush's father lost re-election amid broad economic discontent. It was 82 percent last month.

Race & Age

Race continues to look like less of a problem for Obama than age is for McCain. White voters prefer McCain by a 12-point margin, 51-39 percent, but that's about the average for Democratic presidential candidates.

John Kerry lost whites by 17 points, Al Gore by 12, Mike Dukakis and Walter Mondale by broader margins. All the same, Democrats who've won the White House have done better among whites.

Twenty-three percent of Americans call the race of the candidate an important factor in their vote; this view, however, doesn't unequally impact vote preference. For example, just shy of four in 10 whites support Obama regardless of whether they call race important or unimportant in their preference.

Far more, 40 percent, call the age of the candidate important, and those who do so are nearly 20 points more apt to support Obama than are those who say age isn't an issue. Solely among seniors, McCain's support is 25 points lower among those who call age important than among those who say otherwise.

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