Thursday, July 24, 2008

Voters Uncomfortable With Obama on Values, Experience

Amid the virtually unprecedented worldwide adulation for a U.S. presidential nominee, Barack Obama is struggling back home to pull out a lead in public opinion over the presumptive GOP nominee John McCain.

Obama Comfort

A number of polls in recent days have found Obama holding a slight lead in presidential match-ups, often within statisticals margin of error. Gallup reported yesterday that Obama held "a modest 4-point lead" over McCain.

Today's Wall Street Journal, importantly, notes that Americans are deeply uncomfortable with the Illinois Senator, questioning his values and fidelity to nation:

Midway through the election year, the presidential campaign looks less like a race between two candidates than a referendum on one of them - Sen. Barack Obama.

With the nominations of both parties effectively settled for more than a month, the key question in the contest isn't over any single issue being debated between the Democrats' Sen. Obama or the Republicans' Sen. John McCain. The focus has turned to the Democratic candidate himself: Can Americans get comfortable with the background and experience level of Sen. Obama?

This dynamic is underscored in a new
Wall Street Journal
/NBC News poll. The survey's most striking finding: Fully half of all voters say they are focused on what kind of president Sen. Obama would be as they decide how they will vote, while only a quarter say they are focused on what kind of president Sen. McCain would be.

The challenge that presents for Sen. Obama is illustrated by a second question. When voters were asked whether they could identify with the background and values of the two candidates, 58% said they could identify with Sen. McCain on that account, while 47% said the same of Sen. Obama. More than four in 10 said the Democratic contender doesn't have values and a background they can identify with....

The excitement and the uncertainties about the Obama campaign flow from his unusual personal profile. Not only is he the first African-American to win a major party's nomination: He also was raised by a single white mother, spent his formative years in Hawaii and Indonesia, got an Ivy League law degree, has been in the Senate less than four years, attended a controversial African-American church, and is married to a strong professional woman who has stirred up some controversy herself.

Interviews with voters suggest that while many who seek change in the White House are excited by that profile, others will need time to digest it - and some may never do so.
Another key finding is that by a margin of 53-to-19 percent, voters found McCain more "knowledgeable" and experienced."

Note too that Obama's world tour has not generated a bump in public opinion for the Illinois Senator,
as Fox News reports:

The significant news coverage Barack Obama is receiving on his foreign trip has not translated into a bounce in his numbers, a just-released FOX News poll shows. Obama now holds the slimmest possible edge over John McCain, leading by just 41 percent - 40 percent in a head-to-head contest. In fact, Obama’s support is down slightly from his 45 percent - 41 percent advantage last month.
See also, Gallup's most recent tracking poll data, "Obama Maintains Slim Edge Over McCain."

What can we make of all this?

Well, considering that Obama's currently enjoying superior press coverage relative to McCain -
big media's contributed to Obama 100-to-1 over McCain in the money race - Obama's weakness in publc opinion portends serious political liablities.

The McCain campaign's opportunity is in exploiting the public's genuine insecurities on Obama, including questions of character, experience, integrity, and religon, not to mention domestic and foreign policy priorities.

Controversies surrounding Obama's patriotism are of further concern among traditional voters, folks who are resistant to Obama's elitism and absence of small-town values. On that front, the McCain campaign's
already attacking Obama's commitment to the troops, following Obama's cancelled visit to U.S. military installations in Germany today.

The GOP would be smart to launch a "
it's 3am and your children are asleep" media attack blitz upon Obama's return to the campaign trail next week.

Image Credit: Wall Street Journal