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Pew: Race Back to Dead Even--But McCain Improves on Issues, Enthusiasm

9:40 AM, Sep 19, 2008 • By GARY ANDRES
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A new Pew survey demonstrates what many other national polls have revealed in the last few days--the national horserace is about as tight as possible. The latest Pew research finds the race at a near dead heat of 46 percent Obama and 44 percent McCain, nearly identical to the pre-convention 46 percent to 43 percent spread.

Both candidates received post-convention bounces, but now the numbers have reverted back pretty close to pre-Denver/St. Paul levels.

The Pew survey, however, does show some notable improvements for McCain on enthusiasm-related measures:

McCain's recent achievements are clearly evident. First, Republican voters are much more politically energized than they were prior to the conventions. A greater percentage of GOP voters believe that it "really matters" who wins the election (71% now vs. 62% in June); far more also express satisfaction with their presidential choices than in June (74% vs. 49%).

McCain also garners more strong support and more positive support from his backers than he did a month ago. The percentage of voters saying they back McCain strongly climbed from 17% in August to 25% currently. McCain's increase in strong support has been particularly apparent among Republicans, white evangelical Protestants

The poll also shows progress for McCain on several key issues:

Second, the Republican candidate has increased voter confidence in his ability to deal with a number of key issues. While pluralities still favor Obama to deal with the economy and energy, McCain reduced his rival's margins on these two top domestic issues. The Arizona senator has also all but eliminated Obama's wide advantage in being seen as the candidate best able to reduce the interests of lobbyists and special interests in Washington.

At the same time, McCain increased his lead on national security and foreign policy issues. His current advantages over Obama on terrorism and foreign policy - 25 points on terrorism and 11 points on foreign policy - are on par with President Bush's leads over John Kerry on these issues at this stage in the 2004 campaign.

Finally, Pew, like other surveys also finds McCain has solidified his position among independents post convention. While Obama slipped one point among these unaffiliated voters, McCain surged by nine. These findings are consistent with another part of the Pew study that shows a surge in GOP favorability among independents.

Bottom line: I believe the race is back to a near-draw in the national horserace. Americans may put their opinions on hold pending next Friday night's first presidential debate in Mississippi.

Read the full report here.