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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Big New National Polls: A Few Gleanings

Three big national outlets have released new national polls during the last few days–CNN/Gallup, ABC/Washington Post, and CBS/New York Times. All three have Clinton maintaining a national lead over Obama, though one–ABC/Post–has Obama closing to within five percent. All three have McCain running first and Huckabee second among Republicans; one (CBS/NYT) is distincting in showing Romney plunging into single digits.
Some of the variations are simply of degree. For example, the ABC and CBS polls both over-sample African-American Democrats, and both show Obama now leading HRC there, but the former shows a much larger Obama lead. And all three show McCain making gains among moderate Republicans and independents, but differ somewhat in the other candidates’ standing with these groups.
But the finding that struck me most was in the ABC/Post poll, where the usual questions about the attitude of voters to the idea of the first female, African-American, or Mormon president was supplemented with a question about John McCain’s age.
Looking at the “effect on enthusiasm” of such candidate attributes among voters in both parties, the poll found these “net effects:”
Obama as first black president Dems: +22 GOP: -2
Clinton as first woman Dems: +32 GOP: -20
Huckabee as first Baptist minister Dems: -17 GOP: +5
Romney as first Mormon Dems: -25 GOP: -23
McCain as first at age 72 Dems: -35 GOP: -22
In other words, the “first” characteristics have a positive overall net effect for both Democrats, and negative overall net effect for all three Republicans. But the biggest negative impact of all is the knowledge that McCain would be the oldest candidate ever elected president (Reagan would become the second oldest, at 69).
If nothing else, this kind of polling may soon make McCain’s age and health the issue a lot of observers have expected it to become for a long time. And if he has the bad luck to have one of those moments like Bob Dole’s fall off a platform in 1996, it could be a real problem for him.

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