The findings come as a number of other surveys also see Obama emerging as the frontrunner. Today's Pew Research poll, for example, finds Obama taking a 49 to 42 percent lead among registered voters, and CNN reports that the Illinois Senator's pulling ahead in a number of key battleground states (Florida, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada and Virginia).
The Times piece puts things in perspective:
The contest between Mr. McCain and Mr. Obama is far from over. It is being fought against the continued uncertainty over the turmoil on Wall Street and in the bailout negotiations in Washington. There are three potential turning points ahead — a vice-presidential debate on Thursday night and two more debates between Mr. McCain and Mr. Obama — and this election has regularly been shaken up by outside events that have tested both candidates and altered voters’ views.Note that we could indeed see some kind of "October Surprise" that dramatically reshapes the race, but it does appear at this point - with five weeks left in the season - that the Democrats have turned a corner.
Still, the trends signaled by this new wave of polls — coming at what both sides view as a critical moment in the contest — suggest that the contours of this race are taking form, and in a way that is not encouraging for Mr. McCain’s prospects.
The election cycle is entering a time when voters historically begin to make final judgments; this year, in fact, many of them are actually beginning early voting in states. What is more, the poll suggests voters have been guided by how Mr. McCain and Mr. Obama did in their debate last Friday, and also how they have responded to the crisis on Wall Street and the resulting deadlock in Washington about how to respond to it.
If there's a bright side for the McCain camp it's that the remaining debates may help the GOP regain some momentum (and that includes the vice-presidential debate tomorrow, which is highly anticipated); also, if Congress can reach a respectable bailout bill on Capitol Hill this week or next, the sense of economic crisis may subside just enough for the race to tighten back up in the last couple weeks of the campaign.
The Politico reported this week that Republicans are getting worried and are urging McCain to go on the offensive against Obama. They're right to be concerned, and I'm a little surprised that we haven't seen more of an effort among conservatives (or a more coordinated effort) to define Obama more forcefully.
Of course, one of the big unknowns at this point is whether the considerable shock and outrage during the primaries over Obama's ties to Reverend Jeremiah Wright, as well as to the remaining rogue's gallery of Obama's radical friends, has dissipated enough for the Democrats to slide into a win on November 4, to elect the most liberal presidential candidate since George McGovern.
UPDATE: As a reminder of the era of partisanship that we're in, here's Markos Moulitsas' take on recent polling trends:
Many people will warn against "getting complacent". I like to approach this potential problem differently - we have a chance to rip out the GOP's jugular. We can throw them an anvil. We can kick them while they're down. No matter the metaphor, the underlying meaning remains - we can destroy the Republicans. Now's not the time to slack, it's the time to pick things up. We've got them in a near rout. Let's destroy them.The word "campaign" has a military etymology, which comes through loud and clear with Kos' comments. I don't make predictions, but I can say that if the GOP turns it around, I'm won't be holding back from laying down some reciprocal phraseology.