The US White House race tightened yesterday after new opinion polls suggested Democratic Senator Barack Obama’s shine was wearing off and Republican Senator John McCain was gaining ground in several important states.
The Illinois Democratic senator was greeted like a rock star by some 200,000 people in Berlin, as he continued his week-long foreign tour visiting crucial hotspots and important allies, demonstrating his foreign policy credentials in the race to be the next US president.
But voter polls inside the US showed McCain chipping away at Obama’s lead in the race, which remains between one and six points.
An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll published on Wednesday showed 55 percent of US voters considered Obama the riskiest choice for US president, while just 35 percent said the same of McCain.
The same poll found that 58 percent of voters identified more closely with McCain’s values and background, against 47 percent who said the same of Obama.
A separate study published on Thursday by Quinnipiac University showed McCain has gained ground in several key battleground states, and has overtaken Obama in Colorado.
The survey showed McCain close on Obama’s heels in Michigan and Minnesota, and other polls have put McCain ahead in some key states usually considered Democratic bastions, such as New Hampshire.
“Well, I do understand it,” Obama said in an interview with NBC news, about the number of people viewing him as a risky choice.
“I’m new to the scene. John McCain’s been around 25, 30 years in public life. I have just recently emerged in terms of our national politics. And so it’s not surprising that people would say that,” Obama said.
Obama’s fast journey to Iraq, Israel and Afghanistan, and then stops in Germany, France and, yesterday, Britain, is aimed at showing he has presidential skills, meeting top leaders and pressing the Europeans to keep their troops in Afghanistan.
He said the principle idea he wanted to communicate in meetings with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, was to make them understand “that we’re going to have to have a sustained commitment in Afghanistan, that it’s not going to be a situation where we can do this on the cheap.”
While his reception at each stop on the trip has been generous, the polls showed his message was having less impact among some segments of the US voter population.
“To the extent that he’s acting as if he’s already president when the election is over 100 days away, and everyone expects it will be a very close race, raises questions about how in touch he is,” said Alex Conant, spokesman for the Republican National Committee.
“The fact that Obama is out of touch with voters... is certainly something we’ll continue to reiterate,” Conant said.
McCain sharpened his criticism recently as Obama continued his tour. The Arizona Republican contended that Obama’s opposition to sending more troops to Iraq in the so-called “surge” would have led to humiliating defeat there and in Afghanistan.
McCain laid out a vision of near-apocalypse he said could have occurred had Obama managed to stop the troop buildup ordered by US President George W. Bush.
The Vietnam veteran described a domino chain of calamity: US forces retreating under fire, the Iraqi army collapsing, civilian casualties skyrocketing, al-Qaeda killing Sunni leaders and finding havens to train fighters and launch attacks on Americans, and civil war, genocide and conflict across the Middle East.