Poll numbers don't look good for John McCain these days. But the internal dynamics are even worse.
A Pew Research poll released on Tuesday reveals that the Arizona Republican is not only trailing substantially (19 percent) among early voters, but faces political obstacles that seem downright insurmountable. Despite devoting countless airtime and speeches towards distancing himself from George W. Bush, more people today believe McCain would be an extension of the current administration's policies than they did just one week ago. As Pew reports:
"As disapproval of President Bush's job performance has edged upward, fewer voters say that McCain would take the country in a different direction from Bush's. Currently, more voters say McCain would continue Bush's policies than say he would take the country in a different direction (47% to 40%). Just a week ago (Oct. 16-19), voters were divided over whether McCain would continue Bush's policies or not (44% continue, 45% take new direction."
Making matters worse for the Republican ticket, the same-as-Bush perception is getting stronger among the Independent voters that McCain needs to court.
"Independent voters have become substantially more likely to say McCain would continue Bush's policies (37 percent in mid-October, 48% now) than to say he would take the country in a new direction (50% in mid-October, 38% now)."
Indeed, it appears that much of McCain's efforts this past week to cast his candidacy as the one to help the working class have been for naught. Buried in the Pew polls findings is this little nugget: "Half of voters say that, if elected, McCain 'would do too much for wealthy Americans.'"
These findings suggest that Barack Obama's efforts to paint McCain as an copy of Bush have paid off. But the current race for the White House is being played on an uneven field.
"Favorable ratings for the Republican Party, which rose sharply following the party's convention in early September, have declined to about their previous levels. Currently, 50% say they have an unfavorable opinion of the GOP, while 40% express a favorable opinion of the party; in mid-September, about as many had a favorable opinion of the Republican Party as an unfavorable one (47% favorable vs. 46% unfavorable)... By contrast, a solid majority (57%) continues to express a favorable opinion of the Democratic Party, while 33% have an unfavorable impression."
If there was one glimmer of hope for McCain in the results, it was this: the vast majority of undecided voters have yet to decide to whom they are leaning. As Pew documents:
"When undecided voters are asked whether there is a chance they might vote for McCain or for Obama, only 14% indicate a preference for one candidate over the other (7% for McCain and 7% for Obama). More than three quarters (78%) of the undecideds continue to express uncertainty."