Barackfinally has his bounce. For weeks many political experts and pollsters have been wondering why the race between Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain had stayed so tight, even after the Illinois senator wrested the nomination from Hillary Clinton. With numbers consistently showing rock-bottom approval ratings for President Bush and a large majority of Americans unhappy with the country's direction, the opposing-party candidate should, in the normal course, have attracted more disaffected voters. Now it looks as if Obama is doing just that. A new NEWSWEEK Poll shows that he has a substantial double-digit lead, 51 percent to 36 percent, over McCain among registered voters nationwide.
In the previous NEWSWEEK Poll, completed in late May when Clinton was still fighting him hard for the Democratic nomination, Obama managed no better than a 46 percent tie with McCain. But as pollster Larry Hugick points out, that may have had a lot to do with all the mutual mudslinging going on between the two Democrats. By contrast, in recent weeks Clinton has not only endorsed Obama but has made plans to campaign with him. "They were in a pitched battle, and that's going to impact things. Now that we've gotten away from that period, this is the kind of bounce they've been talking about," said Hugick.
The latest numbers on voter dissatisfaction suggest that Obama may enjoy more than one bounce. The new poll finds that only 14 percent of Americans say they are satisfied with the direction of the country. That matches the previous low point on this measure recorded in June 1992, when a brief recession contributed to Bill Clinton's victory over Bush's father, incumbent George H.W. Bush. Overall, voters see Obama as the preferred agent of "change" by a margin of 51 percent to 27 percent. Younger voters, in particular, are more likely to see Obama that way: those 18 to 39 favor the Illinois senator by 66 percent to 27 percent. The two candidates are statistically tied among older voters.
Most other national polls have shown Obama with a 4 to 5 point lead over McCain so far. Random statistical error can explain some of the difference in poll results. The NEWSWEEK survey of 1,010 adults nationwide on June 18 and 19, 2008, has a margin of error of 4 points. But the latest evidence of his gaining ground goes well beyond that margin.