In­de­pen­dents flock to McCain af­ter Repub­li­can con­ven­tion

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY S.A. MILLER

Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee Sen. John McCain has got­ten a jolt of sup­port right where he wanted it — from the in­de­pen­dent vot­ers whom he courted so ag­gres­sively at his party’s con­ven­tion — and now holds a healthy lead over his Demo­cratic ri­val, Sen. Barack Obama, in the chase for that key con­stituency.

A Gallup Poll re­leased Sept. 9 shows that Mr. McCain’s back­ing among in­de­pen­dent vot­ers jumped 12 per­cent­age points in re­cent days, pro­vid­ing wel­come news for a Repub­li­can can­di­date who has been torn be­tween nur­tur­ing his mav­er­ick ap­peal to in­de­pen­dents and try­ing to ap­pease the party’s con­ser­va­tive base.

He some­how sat­is­fied both groups at the party con­ven­tion in St. Paul, Minn., where he en­er­gized core Repub­li­can vot­ers by nam­ing Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his run­ning mate, but also em­pha­sized the ticket’s com­mit­ment to chang­ing Wash­ing­ton through bi­par­ti­san­ship.

“Clearly, he is mov­ing on the in­de­pen­dents,” Gallup Poll ed­i­tor-in-chief Frank New­port said of the new sur­vey that helps ex­plain how Mr. McCain of Ari­zona gained ground.

The poll shows sup­port for Mr. McCain among in­de­pen­dents spiked from 40 per­cent to 52 per­cent, his largest share of the in­de­pen­dent vote since Gallup be­gan tracking the race.

Mr. McCain also gained five points among Democrats, from 9 per­cent to 14 per­cent.

Com­pound­ing Mr. Obama’s chal­lenges, about 29 per­cent of for­mer ri­val Sen. Hil­lary Rod­ham Clin­ton’s back­ers — more than 5 mil­lion vot­ers — say they will cast their bal­lots for Mr. McCain, ac­cord­ing to poll­ster John Zogby.

“He’s a good can­di­date and a re­silient fel­low. We’ve just got to see how re­silient a guy he is,” Mr. Zogby said.

Mr. McCain took a 49 per­cent to 44 per­cent lead Sept. 8 in the Gallup Daily Tracking Poll of reg­is­tered vot­ers, a six-point bounce for Mr. McCain since be­fore the con­ven­tion. A USA To­day/Gallup Poll pub­lished Sept. 8 showed him open­ing a 10-point lead over Mr. Obama of Illi­nois, 54 per­cent to 44 per­cent, among likely vot­ers.

Th­ese are the largest ad­van­tages that Mr. McCain has scored in months. He had con­sis­tently trailed Mr. Obama in most polls through­out the race.

The lat­est Zogby In­ter­na­tional sur­vey showed the McCain ticket ahead 49.7 per­cent to 45.9 per­cent, al­though the poll more fre­quently puts Mr. McCain in the lead than most other sur­veys.

Other polls, in­clud­ing sur­veys by CNN and CBS News, showed the race dead even.

Mr. New­port cred­ited Mr. McCain’s rise in the Gallup polls to ex­po­sure from the con­ven­tion and a boost from Mrs. Palin. The poll­ster cited Mr. McCain’s im­proved rat­ings across a broad spec­trum of is­sues, in­clud­ing na­tional se­cu­rity and the econ­omy.

“It could fade,” he said. “This week is go­ing to be a very telling week.”

The Obama cam­paign dis­missed the re­cent re­ver­sal of for­tune.

“The elec­torate is closely di­vided, and th­ese num­bers will change, but what won’t is the fact that John McCain voted with Ge­orge Bush 90 per­cent of the time and Gov­er­nor Palin sup­ported the ‘bridge to nowhere,’ “ said Obama cam­paign spokesman Tommy Vi­etor.

He re­ferred to a $223 mil­lion fed­eral ear­mark to pay for a bridge to a re­mote Alaska is­land. The McCain cam­paign touted Mrs. Palin’s op­po­si­tion to the bridge as ev­i­dence of her fight against waste­ful Wash­ing­ton spending, but she re­port­edly voiced sup­port for the project early in the process be­fore Congress nixed it.

The Obama cam­paign nev­er­the- less must shore up sup­port from in­de­pen­dents or risk a re­peat of pri­mary losses in swing states, where in­de­pen­dent-minded vot­ers backed away from Mr. Obama at the last minute.

Un­de­cided Demo­cratic pri­mary vot­ers who waited un­til Elec­tion Day be­fore choos­ing a can­di­date over­whelm­ingly picked ri­val Mrs. Clin­ton of New York. They sided with Mrs. Clin­ton by an av­er­age six­point mar­gin, exit polls showed.

Mr. McCain’s up­swing in na­tional polls also raises his prospects in crit­i­cal swing states, such as Florida, Ohio and Penn­syl­va­nia, said Peter Brown, as­sis­tant di­rec­tor of the Quin­nip­iac Uni­ver­sity Polling In­sti­tute, which spe­cial­izes in swingstate polls.

“Ob­vi­ously, the McCain peo­ple are a lot hap­pier than they were a week ago,” Mr. Brown said. “They should be happy. It doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily mean they will win the elec­tion, but they are ahead for the first time in a long time.”

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