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Poll: Obama not hurt by pastor

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB120657171729866843.html?mod=politics_primary_hs Democrats Are Tied in New Poll Prolonged Contest Is Starting to Wear On
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 26, 2008

      Democrats Are Tied in New Poll
      Prolonged Contest Is Starting to Wear On Clinton,
      March 27, 2008

      WASHINGTON -- The racially charged debate over Barack
      Obama's relationship with his longtime pastor hasn't
      much changed his close contest against Hillary
      Clinton, or hurt him against Republican
      nominee-in-waiting John McCain, according to a new
      Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll.

      Democratic pollster Peter Hart, who conducts the
      Journal/NBC polls with Republican pollster Bill
      McInturff, called the latest poll a "myth-buster" that
      showed the pastor controversy is "not the beginning of
      the end for the Obama campaign."

      • Myth-Buster: A new poll says the controversy over
      Sen. Barack Obama's former pastor hasn't hurt his
      • Bruising Fight: The battle for the nomination is
      wounding both Sen. Obama and Sen. Hillary Clinton.
      • Ominous Sign: Sen. Clinton is losing ground among

      But both Democrats, and especially New York's Sen.
      Clinton, are showing wounds from their prolonged and
      increasingly bitter nomination contest, which could
      weaken the ultimate nominee for the general-election
      showdown against Sen. McCain of Arizona. Even among
      women, who are the base of Sen. Clinton's support, she
      now is viewed negatively by more voters than
      positively for the first time in a Journal/NBC poll.

      The latest survey has the Democratic rivals in a dead
      heat, each with 45% support from registered Democratic
      voters. That is a slight improvement for Sen. Obama,
      though a statistically insignificant one, from the
      last Journal/NBC poll, two weeks ago, which had Sen.
      Clinton leading among Democratic voters, 47% to 43%.

      While Sen. Clinton still leads among white Democrats,
      her edge shrank to eight points (49% to 41%) from 12
      points in early March (51% to 39%). That seems to
      refute widespread speculation -- and fears among Sen.
      Obama's backers -- that he would lose white support
      for his bid to be the nation's first African-American
      president over the controversy surrounding his former
      pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr. of Chicago.

      Had that erosion happened, party leaders' reassessment
      of Sen. Obama's electability could have tipped the
      race to Sen. Clinton's favor. Weathering the episode
      could strengthen his standing among the party leaders
      nationwide -- the superdelegates -- whose votes are
      likely to break the impasse.

      Beyond the nomination race, in hypothetical matchups
      for November's election Sen. Obama still edges Sen.
      McCain 44% to 42%. That is nearly the same result as
      in the early March poll, before videos of Mr. Wright's
      most fiery sermons spread over the Internet. But Sen.
      Clinton, who likewise had a narrow advantage over Sen.
      McCain in the earlier survey, trails in this one by
      two points, 44% to his 46%.

      The poll was conducted Monday and Tuesday, a week
      after Sen. Obama delivered a generally well-received
      address on race. The poll's margin for error is 3.7
      percentage points for questions put to a cross-section
      of 700 registered voters, and slightly higher for
      those questions put only to subgroups of Democratic,
      Republican or black voters.

      As reassuring as the poll is for Sen. Obama, Mr. Hart
      and Mr. McInturff agreed that it did indicate that a
      substantial number of voters question whether the
      first-term senator would be a safe choice, or whether
      more needs to be known about him. Mr. McInturff said
      some voters are wondering, "Do we know enough about
      this guy?"

      While the senator's support among Democrats is little
      changed, he did slip among conservatives and
      Republican voters, groups that had shown some
      attraction to Sen. Obama's message of changing
      partisan politics in Washington. "I think the survey
      does indicate that this has taken a little of the
      patina off Sen. Obama," Mr. McInturff said.

      But the pollster also saw "some evidence here that
      Sen. Obama's speech did him well." The candidate's
      support for his handling of the Wright matter was
      stronger among those voters who said they saw his
      37-minute speech.

      In the Philadelphia address, which Sen. Obama wrote
      and titled "A More Perfect Union," he criticized his
      former pastor for his condemnations of the U.S. for
      its injustices to blacks, but refused to renounce him.

      He also sought to explain to both blacks and whites
      the grievances that each holds against the other,
      while urging both to recognize their real enemies are
      shared ones -- chiefly economic and educational
      inequality, and the job losses from globalization.

      The Clinton campaign had steered clear of the Wright
      controversy, until Sen. Clinton this week told
      interviewers she would have found a new minister had
      hers made the remarks Mr. Wright did. Sen. Obama for
      two decades has attended the 8,000-member Chicago
      church where Mr. Wright, who retired recently, was

      The negativity of the Obama-Clinton contest seems to
      be hurting Sen. Clinton more, the poll shows. A 52%
      majority of all voters says she doesn't have the
      background or values they identify with. By
      comparison, 39% say that of Sen. Obama, and 32% of
      Sen. McCain.

      Also, fewer voters hold positive views of Sen. Clinton
      than did so just two weeks ago in the Journal/NBC
      poll. Among all voters, 48% have negative feelings
      toward her and 37% positive, a decline from a net
      positive 45% to 43% rating in early March. While 51%
      of African-American voters have positive views, that
      is down 12 points from earlier this month, before the
      Wright controversy.

      More ominous for Sen. Clinton is the net-negative
      rating she drew for the first time from women, one of
      the groups where she has drawn most support. In this
      latest poll, women voters with negative views narrowly
      outstrip those with positive ones, 44% to 42%. That
      compares with her positive rating from 51% of women in
      the earlier March poll.

      Both she and Sen. Obama showed five-point declines in
      positive ratings from white voters. But where she is
      viewed mostly negatively, by 51% to 34% of whites,
      Sen. Obama's gets a net positive rating, by 42% to
      37%. Among all voters, he maintained a significant
      positive-to-negative score of 49% to 32% -- similar to
      Sen. McCain's 45% to 25%.

      The toll on both Democrats from their rhetorical
      brawling is evident in these poll findings: About a
      fifth of Clinton voters say they would support Sen.
      McCain if she isn't the Democratic nominee, and
      likewise a fifth of Obama voters say they would do the
      same if he isn't the party standard-bearer.

      Write to Jackie Calmes at jackie.calmes@...
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