Obama Matches his Best, Boosted by Economic Woe

Nov 2, 2008 5:00pm

Barack Obama, closing strongly in the campaign’s final weekend, matched his best advantage over John McCain to date in the latest ABC News/Washington Post tracking poll. Economic concerns are pushing his support beyond the Democratic base to unusual levels in the political center and even among more traditionally Republican groups.

Beyond his advantage on the economy and taxes, Obama’s being boosted by sustained unusually high levels of enthusiasm among his supporters, and by his ability to remain competitive with McCain in trust to handle a crisis – cutting to the “experience” question that has been Obama’s greatest risk.

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Overall, 54 percent of likely voters support Obama, 43 percent McCain in ABC/Post interviews the past four nights, exactly where the race was a week and a half ago.

Support for the candidates has run in a narrow band for weeks. Obama’s received 52 to 54 percent support in every ABC/Post poll since Oct. 11; McCain’s been between 43 and 45 percent in that same period. Obama, moreover, hasn’t gone below 50 percent support, nor McCain above 46 percent, since just after the Republican convention.

Part of Obama’s advantage comes from his campaign’s ability to turn out early voters; 27 percent say they’ve already cast their ballots, a strongly pro-Obama group, 59-40 percent. Among first-time voters, moreover, Obama has a nearly 2-1 advantage; many of them are young, and young voters are his strongest supporters.

Overall, 67 percent of Obama’s supporters are very enthusiastic about his campaign, while just 41 percent of McCain’s supporters share that level of enthusiasm for their choice. For McCain that’s 7 points below his post-convention best; Obama is 4 points off his peak for enthusiasm, just over a week ago.

Obama’s most fundamental advantage is the economy; it’s far and away the top voting issue and he leads McCain by 55-40 percent in trust to handle it, a lead that McCain had narrowed slightly to 52-43 percent early last week. Obama’s also held a steady lead, now 52-41 percent, in trust to handle taxes, a chief target of McCain’s.

On experience, 56 percent see Obama as a “safe” choice for president, despite McCain’s suggestions to the opposite. Meanwhile slightly fewer, 51 percent, see McCain as a safe choice.

Among groups, Obama’s 54 percent support among men is his best this year, as his 46 percent among white men, customarily a more Republican voting group. In these and many other groups, Obama’s support is markedly higher among those who cite the economy as the top issue in their vote, underscoring its unusual strength in vote choices this year.

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