Bottom Line: Obama Leads, McCain Winning Key Groups

A new ABC News/Washington Post poll finds that if the election were held today, voters would choose Democrat Barack Obama over John McCain for president by 6 points. Only 29 percent of those polled say they approve of the job President Bush is doing, and a record high percent of Americans believe the country is headed in the wrong direction.

But despite what looks like a year set up for Democrats, Sen. McCain is only trails Sen. Obama by single digits.

Chief Washington correspondent George Stephanopoulos joined "World News" anchor Charles Gibson to explain.

CHARLIE GIBSON: With the president of his party that unpopular. With so many people thinking the country is going in the wrong direction, it may be surprising that the Republican candidate is so close?

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: That's right. This should be a layup for Barack Obama. But the big hurdle for him right now, Charlie, is experience. Our own poll shows that when asked "do you think he's experience enough," only 50 percent of voters said "yes," a full 46 percent said "no."

The Obama campaign knows that they have to go to this problem. And tomorrow he's meeting with national security leaders. And they're hoping that by having him go to Afghanistan and Iraq, and perhaps some other world capitals, it will get people comfortable with the idea of him being a leader on the world stage.

CHARLIE GIBSON: There are some key constituency groups, though, with which John McCain is actually doing pretty well with.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: And these are the groups that go with the winners. Uh, independents, right now, it's basically a dead heat for Obama. You think he would be doing better than that. Again, given the conditions of the country. Also, McCain (is) doing very well with the group that's been right the last eight elections - white Catholics - he's leading by 14 points among those groups.

CHARLIE GIBSON: Which mean he might be doing a pretty good job of separating himself from the president?

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: That is his number one strategic hurdle. They started to run advertisements now in several key states where John McCain sets himself apart from the president on the issue climate change.

CHARLIE GIBSON: And two great unknowns in this race: One, we have an African American candidate. Two, we have an elderly candidate in the Republican Party. How do those things poll?

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: So far at least people are saying that race is not really a factor. Only 22 percent of voters say race is a factor and they break evenly between Obama and McCain. Far more people say that age is factor. Forty percent of voters say that age is a significant factor in their vote and they break heavily to Barack Obama by 20 points.

CHARLIE GIBSON: But you don't know if people are willing to acknowledge that race is a factor in their vote?

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: That's the whole question. When people are asked directly, they're just never ever going to admit it. And Charlie I don't think we're going to know the answer to that until the day after election day.

CHARLIE GIBSON: All right. George Stephanopoulos on the new ABC News/Washington Post poll.