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WaPo-ABC Tracking: Safe vs Risky

John McCain has drawn even with Barack Obama as a "safe" choice for president, even as his campaign has made little headway in convincing more voters that electing the Democrat is too big a gamble.

And McCain's relative progress on the question has not translated into new momentum: Obama leads 52 to 44 percent among likely voters in the new Washington Post-ABC News tracking poll.

Slim majorities of voters now rate McCain and Obama as safe picks for the presidency - in mid-October this appeared to be a clearer Obama advantage.

Another modest improvement for the GOP nominee is on the question of which candidate better understands the economic problems people in the country are having: Trailing Obama 56 to 38 percent on this attribute is the closest McCain's been on the subject, but it remains an important strength for Obama.

But it is the safe or risky question that is the subject of the day, with the McCain campaign again connecting Obama with 1960s radical William Ayres and Obama set to address television audiences across networks tonight.

In the new poll, 53 percent of voters said McCain is a safe choice for president, 46 percent call him risky -- that's better for McCain than the 49-50 split from mid-October.

For Obama, 54 percent call Obama a safe pick, and 45 percent deem him risky. While those numbers are little changed over the past month, the percentage of voters calling Obama "very risky," 29 percent, is now as high it's been in the campaign.

That tilt appears biggest among those already supporting McCain.

Among those who back the senator from Arizona, 64 percent call Obama a big risk, up from 53 percent a few weeks ago. Conservative Republicans are the most apt to consider Obama a large gamble: 71 percent now call Obama very risky, a figure that has risen steadily throughout the campaign; it was 47 percent back in June.

At the same time, the proportion of Obama voters calling their candidate even somewhat risky has declined somewhat from 13 percent to 8, while there has been little change in their assessments of McCain -- 43 percent said he was a very risky selection.

Among political independents, the percentage calling Obama very risky is up 11 points, from 19 percent to 30 percent. The proportion who consider McCain a very safe choice has climbed the same amount, from 16 percent to 27 percent.

As one might imagine, there is little overlap between the two groups. About one in six said both candidates would be a safe choice, and one in 10 called both risky. The bulk of voters consider one choice safe and the other a risk. While the proportions in each candidate's camp overall are about even among all likely voters, among independents, McCain has an advantage: 40 percent consider him a safe choice and Obama a risky one, while 32 percent said Obama's the safer choice.

Independents have also provided a boost for McCain in economic empathy. Obama holds a 16-point lead among independents on the measure, but McCain has improved since mid-October.

Full data from the Washington Post-ABC News daily tracking poll can be found here.

By Jennifer Agiesta  |  October 29, 2008; 4:32 PM ET
Categories:  Tracking  
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Comments

The partisan breakdown increased from 3 points yesterday to 6 points today, and yet Obama only gained one point overall in the poll.

McCain has caught up with Obama with the percent of votes from his own party so, as I suspected, it will come down to turnout and independents.

Independents favor Obama by 10 points, down 1 from yesterday but still a significant lead.

The question is will that narrow?

Posted by: SAM13 | October 29, 2008 5:28 PM | Report abuse

I am a white male, in the middle part of the middle class, and the bigger risk is John McCain. McCain had the ability to undo Bush a few years ago and he passed. I cant risk more Republican mess ups -- its affected my savings, my work, my optomistic view on life. Its time to end the long run of unthinking conservative dominance and give a moderate a chance like Obama. Could we do any worse that use the same tired old mismanagement from Republicans who think they are always right and govern like incompetent dunces? I'm for Obama 100%.

Posted by: paulnolan97 | October 29, 2008 6:05 PM | Report abuse

McCain & the Bushies media members have been using smear and fear tactics, labeling Obama as a terriorist, socialist ect. Their supporters, with rare exception, are the only ones buying into the fear & smear. Thus, they have changed their opinion of Obama to risky or very risky based on the lies of the neocon propaganda machine. The question does not say in what form that risk is, so it is kind of an open ended and meaningless question.

Posted by: DrWho2 | October 29, 2008 6:26 PM | Report abuse

What I find most striking about the data is how stable it is. There is daily noise in the party ID and ideology screen and that generally corresponds with the top line number. In the end, however, there is very little movement overall. The race is static and Obama leads around 7 points.

The risk/steady metric is useless. Of course partisans for their own side view the other as risky. It would be interesting if Democrats or even some Obama supporters viewed their own candidate as more risky. But the increase is coming from conservative Repubs and right-wing Independents who are suckers for the whole "terrorist, Muslim socialist" thing. Just watch the mutants outside Palin rallies and you'll see the fear and anger.

Posted by: ElrodinTN | October 29, 2008 6:42 PM | Report abuse

Forgeddaboutitt!

This race is over and Grandpa can go back to Arizona (if thel'll have him)...I have lived in Northern Arizona for over thirty years...the last of Goldwater...and now too many of George McCain...and it will be a memorable day when the BabyBurner hits the dust-bin of history!

Posted by: kase | October 29, 2008 7:34 PM | Report abuse

Obama has been consistent in his plan.

McSame has no plan except to sling mud. Is this how he will run the White House? Blaming the Democrats? What will that accomplish? Nothing!

Obama/Biden 2008!

Posted by: camera_eye_11 | October 29, 2008 10:28 PM | Report abuse

Too all the independents who think we can not do any worse than Bush - yes we can. Don't beleive me. Ask the Cubans how things turned out after their agent of change Fidel Castro took power. Castro came to power as a beloved populist but in truth, was a communist who led his country to lose its freedom and prosperity. As bad as Bush has been, Obama will be worse if elected. Think about it before you vote. This guy is not looking out for your interests - only his own hubris.

Posted by: mh53ehawk | October 29, 2008 11:30 PM | Report abuse

I am a moderate Democrat. Obama had me from hello, but I was willing to listen to McCain and give him a fair chance. But his fake suspension of the campaign... his lack of understanding of the economic crisis... and his completely reckless selection of Sarah Palin have been proof positive how risky a choice he is. Of the most important tests we've had of the candidates so far, McCain has failed miserably. Plus I don't wish to live or die through the warfest of a McCain administration. He's a hothead with a military record of disciplinary action. Obama is the only one that can pull this country together after the damage McPalin has done.

OBAMA '08

Posted by: primadonnadav | October 30, 2008 1:14 AM | Report abuse

I am a moderate Democrat. Obama had me from hello, but I was willing to listen to McCain and give him a fair chance. But his fake suspension of the campaign... his lack of understanding of the economic crisis... and his completely reckless selection of Sarah Palin have been proof positive how risky a choice he is. Of the most important tests we've had of the candidates so far, McCain has failed miserably. Plus I don't wish to live or die through the warfest of a McCain administration. He's a hothead with a military record of disciplinary action. Obama is the only one that can pull this country together after the damage McPalin has done.

OBAMA '08

Posted by: primadonnadav | October 30, 2008 1:14 AM | Report abuse

Safe?

A spendthrift Red Socialist Republican SAFE?

Oh, give me a break.

The only safe choice is Obama.

Posted by: WillSeattle | October 30, 2008 4:19 AM | Report abuse

"An evangelical youth movement at Liberty University -- a fundamentalist Baptist institution founded by the Rev. Jerry Falwell -- has mobilized to support John McCain's presidential candidacy. Given McCain's clashes with religious conservatives during his 2000 campaign for president, the support he's receiving from conservative-minded students is significant."

EXTREMISTS FUNDAMENTALISTS NEOCONS TALIBANEVANGELISTS SUPPORTING AN EXTREMIST. If Jesus was here, he would ahve been shocked with this breed on so called Christians that put Fear, Hate and Division at the heart of their message!

AMERICANS TRUE VALUES ARE BASED ON DIVERSITY, TOLERANCE, UNITY, GENUINE PATRIOTISM NOT A FAKE ONE AND ABOVE ALL RESPECT TO all citizens regardless of their background as long as they are serving the FLAG not LOBBIYSTS IN WASHINGTON DC!

TIME FOR REAL CHANGE OF THE STATUS QUO!

OBAMA/BIDEN in 2008

Posted by: 1Nouri | October 31, 2008 8:36 AM | Report abuse

The narrative has been established. "mccain attacks close the gap, obama labelled too liberal, the race factor" Is this a plausible storyline for the gullible to tolerate another stolen election with results being tabulated in key states by computer calculus--touchscreen, no paper trail, partixan participants, uncritical media. Or will americans finally refuse to accept abuse ?

Posted by: seen2much | November 2, 2008 2:50 AM | Report abuse

To the individual saying McCain "and the media" have been using fear and smear tactics, you've got it reversed, liar: The left-wing, propagated announcers, who lie through their teeth consistently, have done their best to cover Obama's questionable connections and vested interests overseas.

Obama hasn't earned our trust, period, and he stands for a lot of things that are unconstitutional, such as abortion and infanticide.

Ironically, I found a youtube video where he spoke of Americans being withheld information. I commented against his ideologies numerous times, and they didn't print ONE post. Talk about propagation and hypocrisy.

Obama isn't the man for the job.

Posted by: Ronald4 | November 4, 2008 3:11 PM | Report abuse

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