Obama's 15-point lead over McCain.
"Barack finally has his bounce. For weeks many political experts and pollsters have been wondering why the race between Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain had stayed so tight, even after the Illinois senator wrested the nomination from Hillary Clinton. With numbers consistently showing rock-bottom approval ratings for President Bush and a large majority of Americans unhappy with the country's direction, the opposing-party candidate should, in the normal course, have attracted more disaffected voters. Now it looks as if Obama is doing just that. A new NEWSWEEK Poll shows that he has a substantial double-digit lead, 51 percent to 36 percent, over McCain among registered voters nationwide.
In the previous NEWSWEEK Poll, completed in late May when Clinton was still fighting him hard for the Democratic nomination, Obama managed no better than a 46 percent tie with McCain. But as pollster Larry Hugick points out, that may have had a lot to do with all the mutual mudslinging going on between the two Democrats. By contrast, in recent weeks Clinton has not only endorsed Obama but has made plans to campaign with him. "They were in a pitched battle, and that's going to impact things. Now that we've gotten away from that period, this is the kind of bounce they've been talking about," said Hugick.
The latest numbers on voter dissatisfaction suggest that Obama may enjoy more than one bounce. The new poll finds that only 14 percent of Americans say they are satisfied with the direction of the country. That matches the previous low point on this measure recorded in June 1992, when a brief recession contributed to Bill Clinton's victory over Bush's father, incumbent George H.W. Bush. Overall, voters see Obama as the preferred agent of "change" by a margin of 51 percent to 27 percent. Younger voters, in particular, are more likely to see Obama that way: those 18 to 39 favor the Illinois senator by 66 percent to 27 percent. The two candidates are statistically tied among older voters.
Obama's current lead also reflects the large party-identification advantage the Democrats now enjoy—55 percent of all voters call themselves Democrats or say they lean toward the party while just 36 percent call themselves Republicans or lean that way. Even as McCain seeks to gain voters by distancing himself from the unpopular Bush and emphasizing his maverick image, he is suffering from the GOP's poor reputation among many voters. Still, history provides hope for the GOP. Hugick points out that in May 1988 when the primaries ended, Democrat Michael Dukakis enjoyed a 54 percent to 38 percent lead over George H.W. Bush. But Bush wound up winning handily. "Those results should give people pause," Hugick says, saying that a substantial number of voters, about 5 percent, have also moved into the undecided column. A significant improvement in the economy, or continued advances in Iraq—an issue McCain has identified with strongly as the senator who championed the "surge" first—could alter the Republican's fortunes.
For now, however, Obama is running much stronger at this point in the race than his two most recent Democratic predecessors, Sen. John Kerry and Vice President Al Gore, who both failed in their bids to win the White House. In a July 2004 NEWSWEEK Poll, Kerry led Bush by only 6 points (51 percent to 45 percent). In June 2000, Gore was in a dead heat with Bush (45 percent to 45 percent)—which is essentially where he ended up when that razor-thin election was finally decided.
Most other national polls have shown Obama with a 4 to 5 point lead over McCain so far. Random statistical error can explain some of the difference in poll results. The NEWSWEEK survey of 1,010 adults nationwide on June 18 and 19, 2008, has a margin of error of 4 points. But the latest evidence of his gaining ground goes well beyond that margin."