By Sean Reagan

The latest LA Times/Bloomberg poll is an interesting one. In a two-way race, Obama holds a 12-point lead over McCain, 49-37. And – more interesting yet – when you factor in Libertarian Bob Barr and Independent Ralph Nader, that margin climbs to 15 points, 48-33.

Even though voters believe McCain has more experience and is tougher viz. Terrorism, they’re far more concerned about bread-and-butter issues. And on that score, it’s Obama all the way.

Obama’s lead — bigger in this poll than in most other national surveys — appears to stem largely from his positions on domestic issues. Both Democrats and independent voters said Obama would do a better job than McCain at handling the nation’s economic problems, the public’s top concern.

They prefer Obama’s healthcare proposals by nearly 30 points, his proposals on taxes by 14 points and his plan to offer relief to homeowners facing foreclosure by 12 points.

Another interesting facet is the so-called “enthusiasm gap.”

Among voters who described themselves as conservative, 58% said they would vote for McCain; 15% said they would vote for Obama, 14% said they would vote for someone else, and 13% said they were undecided. By contrast, 79% of voters who described themselves as liberal said they planned to vote for Obama.

“I’m a Republican . . . but I don’t like some of the things McCain voted for in the Senate, especially immigration,” said poll respondent Mary Dasen, 77, a retired United Way manager in Oscoda, Mich., who said she was undecided. “There’s a big chance I might stay home and not vote.”

Even among voters who said they planned to vote for McCain, more than half said they were “not enthusiastic” about their chosen candidate; 45% said they were enthusiastic. By contrast, 81% of Obama voters said they were enthusiastic, and almost half called themselves “very enthusiastic,” a level of zeal found in 13% of McCain’s supporters.

And, as we’ve been pointing out here at The Back Forty for a while now, Obama holds a whopping 25-point lead (54-29) among women.

What does it mean for McCain? Daniel De Groot points out that the poll expose major fault lines in the Republican brand. Bush is at 23% favorability – 23%! Fifty-one percent of those polled had a “positive feeling” about the Democratic Party while only 29% said the same of Republicans.

I think the message from this is pretty clear as far as the Presidential race is concerned. Don’t just tie McCain to Bush (which he can weakly try to run from), tie him to his own party. Let’s see him try to deny that.

Team McCain is already pushing back.

“If the L.A. Times survey is recalculated to a more normalized range for party identification, McCain would be down in the mid-single digits, which is what we are seeing in most other polls,” write Bill McInturff, Liz Harrington and David Kanevsky.

They point out that the survey has party i.d. at 22% Republican, 39% Democrat, and 27% Independent, leaving 12% of the survey’s sample unaccounted for.

We’ve all heard the caveats about polls this far out – they aren’t worth a bucket of warm spit. But what’s interesting here – and why I think the McCain camp is taking it so seriously – is the emerging narrative of an Obama blowout, that he’s building a lead so massive that it can’t be undone. If that story gets legs, expect plenty of voters who might vote McCain to stay home and – as importantly – a lot of party activists and donors to sit this one out.

During the primaries, it was always my sense that Obama runs best when he’s not neck deep in the trenches. I’m not saying he can’t do that kind of political fighting – I’m saying he’s better out front. More confident, more likely to find his pitch, more likely to strike the domestic notes that are obviously resonating with voters this year.

Those Republican jitters aren’t for show – they’re the real deal.

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4 Responses to “Jitters”

  1. Typo in the first line there:  that’s a 12-point lead, not a 23-point lead…

  2. sean,

    excellent point: I think the message from this is pretty clear as far as the Presidential race is concerned. Don’t just tie McCain to Bush (which he can weakly try to run from), tie him to his own party. Let’s see him try to deny that.

  3. I wish it was a 23 point lead, but your opening sentence has a math error. 49-37 is a 12 point lead.

  4. Got it, guys. . . wishful thinking I guess . . .

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