More Challenges for McCain, From Ayers to the Palin Pick

Poll: Obama is more optimistic; Palin leads many to question McCain's judgment.

ByABC News
September 30, 2008, 12:43 PM

Oct. 20, 2008 — -- More challenges for John McCain: Likely voters overwhelmingly reject his effort to make an issue of Barack Obama's association with 1960s radical William Ayers. Fallout continues from McCain's pick of Sarah Palin for vice president, with 52 percent saying it weakens their confidence in his judgment. And on optimism, it's Obama by 2-1.

Skepticism about the Ayers issue was one of the factors cited by Colin Powell in his endorsement of Obama yesterday, and in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll, likely voters broadly agree: 60 percent say Obama's relationship with Ayers is not a legitimate issue in the presidential campaign; 37 percent say it is.

Click here for PDF with charts and questions.

There's less of a split, though, on the Obama campaign's association with the community group ACORN; 49 percent say it's not a legitimate issue, 40 percent say it is, with more, 11 percent, unready to express an opinion on the subject. McCain's accused ACORN of voter registration fraud; the group blames some of its canvassers for filling out faked forms, and says it itself has notified the authorities of such cases.

On the vice presidential candidates, 52 percent of likely voters say McCain's pick of Palin has made them less confident in the kind of decisions he'd make as president; that's up 13 points since just after the selection, as doubts about Palin's qualifications (also voiced by Powell on Sunday) have grown. Just 38 percent say it makes them more confident in McCain's judgment, down 12 points.

Those numbers are more than reversed on Obama's pick of Joe Biden: 56 percent of likely voters say it makes them more confident in Obama's decision-making, 31 percent less so.

Optimism, meanwhile, is a strong point of differentiation between the two candidates. Likely voters by 62 percent to 30 percent see Obama as more optimistic than McCain – all else equal, an attractive quality in a candidate, as Ronald Reagan demonstrated. And in a similar attribute, voters by a 17-point margin, 54-37 percent, see Obama has having the better personality and temperament for office.