15 de octubre de 2008

"McCain & Polls: Tragedy is Coming"

The McCain campaign's recent angry tone and sharply personal attacks on Senator Barack Obama appear to have backfired and tarnished Senator John McCain more than their intended target, a New York Times/CBS News poll has found.

After several weeks in which the McCain campaign unleashed a series of harsh political attacks on Obama, trying to tie him to a former 1960s radical, among other things, the survey found that voters see McCain as waging a more negative campaign than Obama.

Six in 10 of those surveyed said that McCain had been spending more time attacking Obama than explaining what he would do as president; the same ratio said Obama was spending more of his time explaining than attacking.

The poll found that if the election were held today, 53 percent of respondents who were determined to be probable voters would vote for Obama and 39 percent would vote for McCain.

The findings come as the race enters its final three weeks, with the two candidates holding their last debate Wednesday night, and as separate polls in critical swing states that decide the election give Obama a growing edge.

In the Times/CBS poll, voters who said that their opinion of Obama had changed in recent weeks were twice as likely to say that it had gotten better as to say it had gotten worse. And voters who said that their opinion of McCain changed were three times as likely to say that it had gotten worse as to say it had gotten better.

Those who said that they had come to think less of McCain in recent weeks cited his negative attacks and his choice of Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska as his running mate as the two main reasons. The vast majority of those surveyed said that their opinions of Obama, the Democratic nominee, and McCain, the Republican nominee, had not changed in recent weeks.

Campaign tactics, of course, are only a small part of the dynamic of a campaign that is now unfolding against a backdrop of an extraordinary economic crisis and two wars. With Election Day getting closer, the survey found an extremely inhospitable environment for any Republican to run in: Nearly 9 out of 10 voters now say that the United States is headed down the wrong track, the highest ever recorded.

And McCain is trying to keep the White House in Republican hands at a time when President George W. Bush's job approval rating is hovering around its historic low.

When the question about whom respondents would vote for included Ralph Nader and Bob Barr, the Libertarian candidate, the race narrowed slightly, with 51 percent supporting Obama, 39 percent supporting McCain, and Nader getting the support of 3 percent and Barr 1 percent.

The poll suggested that overwhelming fears about the economy, and distrust of government, had created a potentially poisonous atmosphere for congressional incumbents. Only 43 percent of those surveyed said they approved of their own representative's job performance, considerably lower than it has been at other times of historic discontent. By way of comparison, just before the Democrats lost control of Congress in 1994, 56 percent of those polled said that they approved of the job their representative was doing.

Still, the Democratic Party was rated far more favorably than the Republican Party. Fifty-two percent of those polled said that they held a favorable view of the Democrats, compared with 37 percent who said they held a favorable view of the Republicans. And Democrats continue to hold an advantage over Republicans when it comes to questions about who would better handle the issues that are of greatest concern to voters - the economy, health care and the war in Iraq.

Democratic candidates for the House of Representatives hold a 14-point edge over their Republican counterparts among probable voters, the poll found.

The nationwide telephone poll was conducted Friday through Monday with 1,070 adults, of whom 972 were registered voters, and it has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points for both groups.

Several of those polled explained in follow-up interviews why they were rubbed the wrong way by McCain's attacks on Obama.

"What bothers me is that McCain initially talked about running a campaign on issues, and I want to hear him talk about the issues," said Flavio Lorenzoni, a 59-year-old independent from Manalapan, New Jersey. "But we're being constantly bombarded with attacks that aren't relevant to making a decision about what direction McCain would take the country."

A community organizing group that has been attacked by Republicans and the McCain campaign over accusations of fraudulent voter registrations sought to give assurances Tuesday that instances of wrongdoing were not widespread.

At a news conference in Washington, officials with the group, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or Acorn, acknowledged some cases in which canvassers submitted false or duplicate registrations but said they represented only a tiny fraction of the 1.3 million new voters the group signed up during this election cycle.

"Out of 13,000 workers, there were inevitably a few who decided they'd pad their hours by duplicating a card and filling out another one or making up a name," said Kevin Whalen, an Acorn spokesman.

"If we discovered this," Whalen said, "we not only turned that information over but turned the information we had about that former employee - because they'd been fired by that point - to elections officials and asked for their help in prosecuting that person."

On Tuesday, Acorn was surveying local offices to come up with a tally of the number of "problematic" registration cards it had submitted.

A spokesman for the group indicated that the number of employees who had been fired for job-related problems, including voter registration fraud, could reach 1,000 or more nationwide, but he later backed off that estimate. The spokesman confirmed that more than 100 Acorn workers in two states - Ohio and Michigan - had been dismissed.

Boards of elections in more than a dozen states are investigating the reports of fraudulent registrations. Acorn officials said that in many states they were required by law to turn in all registration forms, even those deemed problematic.

The McCain campaign has been using the connections between the group and Senator Barack Obama as a line of attack. Acorn's political arm has endorsed the Democratic presidential nominee.

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