As Obama stays ahead, some suggest a tightening race

By Arun Kumar, IANS,

Washington : Amid a flurry of polls showing Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama leading over Republican rival John McCain with an average of seven points, a few indicated a tightening of the race in the home stretch.

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In the latest CNN national poll of polls, Obama’s support with likely voters stood at 50 percent and McCain’s at 43 percent. Seven percent of those surveyed are unsure about their choice for president.

The latest poll represents a slight tightening compared to the previous national poll of polls when Obama stood at 51 percent and McCain at 42 percent, CNN said. Obama’s nine-point lead in the previous poll of polls was Obama’s widest advantage so far over McCain.

However, an Associated Press-GfK poll, which is included in the CNN’s eleven national general election surveys, suggested a much more even race with Obama at 44 percent and McCain at 43 percent.

The latest George Washington University Battleground Poll, conducted by Republican strategist Ed Goeas and Democratic pollster Celinda Lake, too showed the Democrat just two points ahead of the Republican among likely voters in the Nov 4 election.

The poll suggested that the White House race had tightened after the final presidential debate, with McCain gaining among whites and people earning less than $50,000, AP said.

The poll, it said, supports what some Republicans and Democrats privately have said in recent days: that the race narrowed after the third debate as Republican leaning voters drifted home to their party and McCain’s “Joe the plumber” analogy struck a chord.

During their last debate, a feisty McCain repeatedly forced Obama to defend his record, comments and associations. He also used the story of a voter whom the Democrat had met in Ohio, “Joe the plumber,” to argue that Obama’s tax plan would be bad for working class voters.

Three weeks ago, an AP-GfK survey found that Obama had surged to a seven-point lead over McCain, lifted by voters who thought the Democrat was better suited to lead the nation through its sudden economic crisis.

In other surveys focusing on likely voters, a Washington Post-ABC News poll showed Obama up by 9 percentage points, while a poll by the non partisan Pew Research Centre had Obama leading by 14. A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, among the broader category of people registered to vote, found Obama ahead by 10 points.

Commenting on the “wildly fluctuating poll numbers”, CBS said “it’s important to remember that every poll is simply a snapshot in time and that each poll measures voter intent slightly differently. There is also a margin of error in all polls.

For instance, there is a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points in the AP poll. “That means Obama could be ahead by as many as 8 points or down by as many as 6,” the agency said.

Because of those factors, the most valuable and important indicator is the trendlines of each poll, CBS said.

Since the start of the conventions, the CBS News polls have registered a lead of 8 points for Obama following the Democratic convention, a tie, a 2-point McCain lead and then following that with Obama leads of 5 points, 5 points, 9 points, 5 points and 14 points.

The next poll will show whether that later spread was an anomaly or a trend that is holding but the overall trend since the middle of September has shown a steady lead for Obama, it said.

It’s also useful to individually look at all polls taken around the same time frame because they are registering voter feelings in the context of the same general events, CBS said. Obama has increased his lead in most polls since the completion of the debates and as the economic crisis continues to grip the country.