Oct. 20, 2008— -- John McCain has climbed back from his record shortfalls on economic empathy and "change" since the final presidential debate last week -- but not enough to alter the basic dynamic of his contest with Barack Obama.
Focusing on economic concerns at the debate and since, McCain has trimmed Obama's lead in better understanding Americans' economic problems from 31 points last week to 19 points now; on bringing "needed change" to Washington, from 34 points to 21; and as the "stronger leader," from 17 points to 8.
Moreover, since his debate declaration, "I am not President Bush," the number of likely voters who think McCain would continue in Bush's direction has inched (barely) under half for the first time in ABC News/Washington Post polls. And McCain has made back some of his enthusiasm deficit.
Yet Obama's advantages remain.
The Colin Powell endorsement lends him pushback. And most fundamentally he still leads in trust to handle the economy overall, voters' overwhelming issue, by 16 points, 55-39 percent, essentially the same as pre-debate. (It's an 18-point Obama lead, 50-32 percent, on having presented the clearer economic plan.)
Obama also continues to lead McCain by 10 points in trust to deal with taxes, with no change since McCain's invocation of 'Joe the Plumber.'
Obama leads by 10 points on better representing "your personal values" and 8 points on honesty and trustworthiness.
And while 40 percent of McCain's backers are "very" enthusiastic (up 9 points), that soars to 64 percent of Obama's.
The result: a continued advantage for Obama in overall vote preferences, 53-44 percent vs. McCain among likely voters, essentially unchanged from last week.