|The economy shakes more Americans awake, and Barack Obama takes a 52-43 lead over Crazy Grandpa John.
Two weeks ago, in the days immediately following the Republican National Convention, the race was essentially even, with McCain at 49 percent and Obama at 47 percent.
As a point of comparison, neither of the last two Democratic nominees -- John F. Kerry in 2004 or Al Gore in 2000 -- recorded support above 50 percent in a pre-election poll by the Post and ABC News.
Last week's near-meltdown in the financial markets and the subsequent debate in Washington over a proposed government bailout of troubled financial institutions have made the economy even more important in the minds of voters. Fully 50 percent called the economy and jobs the single most important issue that will determine their vote, up from 37 percent two weeks ago. In contrast, just 9 percent cited the Iraq war as their most important issue, its lowest of the campaign.
But voters are cool toward the administration's initial efforts to deal with the current crisis. Forty-seven percent said they approve of the steps taken by the Treasury and the Federal Reserve to stabilize the financial markets, while 42 percent said they disapprove.
Anxiety about the economic situation is widespread. Just over half of the poll respondents -- 52 percent -- believe the economy has moved into a serious long-term decline. Eight in 10 are concerned about the overall direction of the economy, nearly three-quarters worry about the shocks to the stock market, and six in 10 are apprehensive about their own family finances.
Two weeks ago, McCain held a substantial advantage among white voters, including newfound strength with white women. In the face of bad economic news, the two candidates now run about evenly among white women, and Obama has narrowed the overall gap among white voters to five percentage points.
Much of the movement has come among college-educated whites. Whites without college degrees favor McCain by 17 points, while those with college degrees support Obama by 9 points. No Democrat has carried white, college-educated voters in presidential elections dating back to 1980, but they were a key part of Obama's coalition in the primaries.
In addition, Obama is favored by whites who are worried about the economy. He doesn't do as well with those who aren't.
Still, Obama pitfalls remain, including the 18 percent of voters in a new AP/Yahoo poll (have I mentioned my increasing lack of trust in the Associated Press?) who are undecided. In my book, at this stage and with this economy, undecided is generally American for "I can't vote for that black guy, but don't go calling me racist ... and I'm embarrassed to admit that I'm voting for McCain, knowing he'll screw things up even more."Team Obama, beware.
Labels: 2008 election, Barack Obama, John McCain, polls, presidential candidates, the economy