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August 21st, 2008
08:12 AM ET

Deadlock in the presidential race

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/POLITICS/06/22/campaign.wrap/art.obamamccain.gi.jpg]Bill Schneider
CNN Senior Political Analyst

After sporting a lead of up to 9 percent weeks ago, Barack Obama now leads John McCain by just one point in CNN’s poll of polls.

Why is the race now so close? For the same reason the Democratic primaries were: McCain is following the Hillary Clinton playbook. Remember her controversial 3 A.M. ad? This month, we had a 3 A.M. moment. Russia invaded Georgia, and John McCain touted his experience and military expertise saying:

“…and in the term of the next President, skillful handling of such a crisis could be the difference between temporary hardship and far-reaching disaster.”

Obama on the other hand emphasized his judgment.

“The next commander-in-chief is going to have to exercise the best possible judgment in getting us through these difficult times.”

Who do the voters think is better qualified to deal with Russia?  McCain, by better than 2 to 1.

During the primaries, Clinton was accused of crude populism when she made this proposal during the primaries: "My opponent, Senator Obama, opposes giving consumers a break from the tax, the gas tax, at the federal level. I support it."

During the primaries, Clinton was accused of crude populism when she made this proposal during the primaries: "My opponent, Senator Obama, opposes giving consumers a break from the tax, the gas tax, at the federal level. I support it."

Now Mccain is being accused of crude populism, with similar comments, like this one: "Senator Obama says he wants energy independence, but he's opposed to do drilling at home."

In return, Obama mocks McCain: "He points down at his feet, and I don't know if he knows something I don't. 'Drill here, Drill now."'

Gas prices have risen sharply under a Republican President. This should be killing the Republican candidate.

So who do voters think would better handle energy prices? It’s a close call. One poll shows McCain slightly ahead, and another shows Obama leading by a narrow margin.

The playbook didn’t quite work for Clinton in the primaries.

Will it work for McCain in the general election? This time, it’s a larger and more conservative electorate, but the forces for change are more powerful against a Republican than they were against Hillary Clinton.

soundoff (22 Responses)
  1. daniel vilca

    shame on senator obama trying to mislead the american people from the true issues!! who cares how many mccain or obama have? or if they remenber it, there is a lot of rich americans that have many homes as investments! the true issue here is senator obama is so desperate to increes his rating that he once again make use of dirty and ols politics…talking about a new kind od politician!
    why he dosent talk about his 1.5 million home who he was able to buy only with help of his fiend corrup fundraiser resko, who buy the lot next to obama for this was the only way he could buy it, according to the previous owner the lots were in sell together.
    his lack of carather and constant flip flopps make clear what kind of politician he is.
    senator obama vote for the energy policy act back on 2005, what is this bill? well this bill give billions of dollars in tax cuts to the oil and nuclear power industries….wait a minute!! isnt barack obama now against this tax cuts? isnt he saying this are the bills that damage america? the bill of energy policy act wich he vote in favor of…
    what a flip flopper!
    democratic delegates you still have time to change your vote undo your mistake! the polls are talking america have realize the kind of man senator obama really is. select senator clinton as the candidate!

    August 22, 2008 at 2:33 am |
  2. Michael Grinberg

    The Obama campaign, and for that matter the American media, should examine McCain’s 5 1/2 years as a POW and how that would affect his fitness to make Presidential decisions. As a retired forensic psychiatrist, I can tell you he almost certainly has symptoms of a chronic post-traumatic stress disorder which, in specific circumstances, could lead him to make impaired decisions, and that there is no conceivable way he could not still harbor residual reflexive tendencies to act out in ways which may not display well thought out and logical judgment. Contrary to the way it has been handled in the media, his POW experience, while certainly unfortunate and sympathetic, is NOT a good experience for a President to have had! Would you think a child who had experienced 5 1/2 years of serious molestation would be better prepared to be a parent or spouse because of that experience? I think not.
    And, since when, is getting yourself shot down and captured a laudable accomplishment? Did McCain not do something which might have avoided his being shot down and captured?

    August 22, 2008 at 1:10 am |
  3. Melissa, Los Angeles

    @ Gladys I agree that McCain is still the wrong answer. I disagree though that it's the governments fault with the mortgage crisis we're in. Too many greedy real estate agents and banking lenders selling houses to greedy people who could not afford payments on a house. I easily could've bought a house with my excellent credit but with stagnate wages I too would be a foreclosure victim. Difference is I'm realistic of what I can and cannot afford and right now I can't even buy a door.

    August 21, 2008 at 5:39 pm |
  4. kunle Lagos Nigeria

    Americans love rhetorics. I think people should look for substance and not just talk.
    In all sincerity I think Obama is yet to convincingly show what stuff he can pull off if elected and even McCain has not done any better !!!
    I think Obama will end up seeking the help of a those who are after there own interest rather than because they believe in him to lead the Nation to greater heights.
    McCain on the other hand should be more exerienced to differntiate between the opportunist and the loyalist since he has been around for ever!!!
    In the battle of two unknowns (Policy wise) I will err on the side of experience and Patriotism.

    August 21, 2008 at 5:20 pm |
  5. James Dylan

    The reason the "3 am" works is because it is so easily seen as true. McCain has a lifetime of experience in national security, of which he has been right countless times, while Obama has zero, of which he won't even admit to being wrong about the surge. It is amusing to see people think work on the south side of Chicago compares to work around the world and on a national scale. The Obama balloon has been falling since Clinton put this ad out and will continue to do so through the election. We are all seeing the only thing Obama had was hope, a foolish notion to those who are of action.

    Kendra- McCain also said General Petraeus. And who did Obama say he was going to talk to? His wife and grandmother. What a joke. This is one foolish man.

    August 21, 2008 at 5:07 pm |
  6. Kendra

    Who is McCain going to call for help at 3:00 A.M. in the morning? Apparently, the founded of Ebay! This guy clearly just doesn’t have a clue how to be a good President for the Unites States of America.

    August 21, 2008 at 3:57 pm |
  7. Kent Fitzsimmons,Kewanee, IL

    Guess CNN has gone to the GOP side.........my comments are thrown out for Repub one's. Pretty sad guys.........

    August 21, 2008 at 3:35 pm |
  8. Bud Curtis

    I am sure the two factors you mention in the article are playing a large role in what voters think today. But let me mention something that is large in my mind.
    Barack Obama presented himself as a new kind of politician, one who would not campaign like old-style politicians always do. I thought that was very refreshing, then decided to see if it would last. Over the past several days, as Obama's numbers have tightened up, he has gone on the attack. Today, he seems no different than any other "old-style" politician, one who would say anything to get elected. So much for Obama. I will take experience and judgment.

    August 21, 2008 at 3:01 pm |
  9. Ram Riva

    Is unbelievable that people honestly think, Sen McAin can lead the US better than Sen Barack Obama, as President of the United States...
    McAin has said nothing, other than attack Sen Obama, on everything, youth, inexperience, (on what?) and practically everything, he is not proposing anything, just targetting everything that moves...
    Russians are eager to see McAin as President, they will eat him alive...
    If the world could vote, Barack Obama will win by more than six billion votes...
    McAin is betting that millions of US white conservative voters, will never vote for a woman or a black men for President...
    That's the bottom line?...

    August 21, 2008 at 2:40 pm |
  10. Larry

    What's next on Obama's agenda after the presidency?

    August 21, 2008 at 2:08 pm |
  11. Gladys

    John McCain = "Still" the wrong answer

    "If you’re like me and you’ve got one house – or you were like the millions of people who are struggling right now to keep up with their mortgage so that they don’t lose their home — you might have a different perspective. By the way, the answer is: John McCain has seven homes. So there’s just a fundamental gap of understanding between John McCain's world and what people are going through every single day here in America."

    August 21, 2008 at 1:15 pm |
  12. Betty Ann , Nacogdoches,TX

    Whoops, he needs Hillary doesn't he?

    August 21, 2008 at 12:27 pm |
  13. JT

    Clear choice.

    War hero versus community organizer.

    A senator who has a record versus a senator who does not have arecord.

    A senator who wants to reduce tax versus senator who wants to raise tax.

    A senator who support the successful surge versus not supporting the troops.

    A senator who wants to get the job done in Iraq then come home versus a senator who just want to come home in 16 months.

    The choice between McCain with experience versus Obama who has no experience.

    McCain is the right choice!

    August 21, 2008 at 12:25 pm |
  14. Melissa, Los Angeles

    What a pity – American's have fallen for Republican scare tactics – again. It doesn't matter that Bush has run this country into the ground and we gripe and complain about it – McCain may do the same but it's better than the unknown mentality of electing someone new. Way to go America.

    August 21, 2008 at 11:35 am |
  15. Susan

    Bill:

    For the first time, national securtiy is creeping up on the economy as the number one issue on voters minds. This could account for
    Senator John McCains rise in the national polls. If this election turns
    on national security concerns, Senator John McCain will have the advantage.

    Senator John McCain has also taken the energy issue
    ( our dependence on foreign oil ) and has hammered home that this is an issue of national security. The largest transfer of wealth is going to countries that really do not like us. Polling indicates that the people are listening.

    I realize that poll results are based on how the question is worded and asked, along with the demographics polled. I am quite sure that the polls will keep changing. The real poll will be election day.

    Susan
    Phoenixville,PA

    August 21, 2008 at 10:40 am |
  16. Kent Fitzsimmons,Kewanee, IL

    Since McCain said himself that he doesn't know much about the economy, I doubt he would win in a "real" poll of all people. McCain's people lobby for Georgia and are part of the problem with this whole manufactured "crisis". Regular Joe's like me could care a less if Georgia is over thrown by Russia. What did the US do to Iraq? Same thing people..............

    August 21, 2008 at 9:58 am |
  17. Gladys

    John McCain = the wrong answer

    "If the U.S. doesn't do something, and fast, to tame the federal government's debts - now more than $50 trillion - the two Nebraska natives warn we will saddle coming generations with economic problems that will make this year's financial turbulence look like a trip to the debt counselor's office." (a good quote from IOUUSA)

    John McCain is not part of the answer, he is part of the problem. He doesn't even understand the economy – which he openly admit.

    Senator Biden doesn't look too good either at this point, 1 billion dollars for Georgia to rebuild? Please. He needs to stop drinking the Kool-Aid. Russia bombed Georgia, let them bail them out. Let them go over and rebuild. Our government taking on too many outside commitments to other countries has gotten us way in over our heads.

    August 21, 2008 at 9:56 am |
  18. Kent Fitzsimmons,Kewanee, IL

    These polls don't mean much. The landlines that the pollsters use can only reach old people most of the time. So this gives us a general idea what old folks believe............which changes constantly. Everyone else has cell phones and the pollsters cannot reach them. So............polls don't use samples of people that are representative of all people.............only grannies and grandpas..........

    August 21, 2008 at 9:54 am |
  19. Alex

    It has become more and more obvious that Barack Obama really doesn't have the experience or knowledge on how to approach a military situation such as the Russian invasion of Georgia. Obama has repeatedly made "generic" or "general" responses on more and more issues. His oratory capabilities are far beyond that of John McCain, but the substance of his responses are sorely lacking. In short, his inexperience is more and more obvious each time something comes down the pike. Even his response to the question posed to him by Rev Rick Warren on his stance of when a life begins sounded like nothing short of dancing around the issue and unwilling to make a commitment. His continuing general responses leaves a feeling for the listener to guess where he stands. In some however, he has no clue on what to do.

    August 21, 2008 at 8:57 am |
  20. Cindy

    Well it seems that John McCain is more of a formidable opponent than the Dems ever thought that he'd be. They thought that they'd just walk all over him and run away in the polls from him with all of Obama's rhetoric and celebrity status. Looking at these polls they were and are SO wrong!!

    And John isn't catching up with Obama because of these ads like you all are trying to make it out to be. He caught up because people see the true Obama and that he is all rhetoric with no substance to back it up. That is the real reason McCain caught up in the polls.

    Cindy...Ga.

    August 21, 2008 at 8:30 am |
  21. Pat

    What's the big decision? You can vote for old, senile, and the same Bush Disaster for another four years or a young, vibrant, keen mind with a Platform of Economic Success, Peace and Prosperity for Americans. Seems quite straight forward to me!

    August 21, 2008 at 8:28 am |
  22. Annie Kate

    Obama just came off a week of vacation so his numbers may have sagged because he was not actively campaigning and being in the news. If Obama would put some substance behind the talk of good judgment it would help him. He's been running in this race now for over a year and its frustrating that we still have so very few specifics about him and his policies to know who he is, what he stands for, and how he would lead us. Saying we need change is true but this close to the election it is no longer enough – Obama needs to go toe to toe with McCain on the policies so the voters can do a reasonably informed comparison. Campaign sayings of "Voting for McCain is voting for another 4 years of Bush" don't buy much leverage because McCain is not considered to be like Bush by his supporters and probably even by his party.

    Depending on who he picks for VP Obama should pull ahead of McCain again at least until the GOP convention. To keep the lead he's going to have to tell us in more detail why we should vote for him – general change with no definition is not going to cut it.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    August 21, 2008 at 8:28 am |