Polls Show Obama With Double-Digit Lead

The third and final presidential debate will take place on Wednesday between Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain. Drama within the campaigns has taken a backseat to conversations about the economy. The latest polls indicate Obama has a double-digt lead over McCain.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

U.S. presidential candidates have been explaining their plans for the economy. It's the issue in this election now just over three weeks away. Joining us now as she does most Mondays is NPR News analyst Cokie Roberts. Good morning, Cokie.

COKIE ROBERTS: Hi Renee.

MONTAGNE: Now, there are a couple of new polls out that show Barack Obama holding a double digit lead against John McCain. How much does that have to do with this financial crisis?

ROBERTS: Oh, I think pretty much everything. It is dramatic, the effect that it is having on this presidential campaign. As you say, Newsweek had a poll out over the weekend. ABC-Washington Post had a poll out today. And that one shows that 90 percent, nine-o percent of the people say the country is going in the wrong direction and that is all about the economy. President Bush's approval rating, the 23 percent is below Nixon's lowest. Now, he has only Harry Truman to look to as having a lower approval rating. And significantly for the campaign, a majority says that McCain would be a continuation of the Bush presidency. So you're seeing Obama's favorability is up, McCain is down.

MONTAGNE: Even though this may be mostly or you might say all about the economy, but is something else going on here as well?

ROBERTS: No, I think really it is just remarkable. Fifty-five percent of the people in the ABC poll say that the economy is the number one issue and any other issue is in single digits. I mean, you just, you know, the war, terrorism, health care, anything else, it just drops off the radar screen. And people are saying that they are concerned about their personal finances. It's not just the country's economic situation they're concerned about. So, you know, this polling comes after a week of everyone opening their 401(k) statements, which have been depressing to say the least. So I think that - you've just seen this tremendous response to it. Obama is up 28 points on helping the middle class. His lead is 28 points. People trust him more to handle taxes.

On the question of will taxes go up, something that McCain has tried to hit home against Obama, on that question, the two candidates are tied. And what you're seeing is not just that this is true nationally, but you're seeing that in the battleground states as well. The only ones that look like they're still in play are basically red states, states that went Republican in the last election. In looking at all these data, Renee, the only really bright spot for John McCain is white Catholics. In the ABC poll, he's up double digits in that crucial group, and there are still about 13 percent of the voters who say that they're movable, that their views can be changed.

MONTAGNE: Well, now, the last presidential election is this Wednesday.

ROBERTS: Debate.

MONTAGNE: And the first presidential debate. I'm sorry, debate.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MONTAGNE: Election, three weeks from now. We got to wait a few - a little more longer. The first couple of debates didn't seem to change many minds. What do you think the candidates will try for in this last one?

ROBERTS: It's hard to see what they can do that would shake anything up. I mean, everything that John McCain has tried so far has essentially failed. The majority again see Obama as safe not risky. They say he has enough experience. They say his ideology is about right. He's not too liberal. And on the other side, a large majority see McCain as going on the attack rather than talking about issues, and I think somewhat over the weekend, he dialed back on that. But at this point, I think, Renee, it would probably take an event of a magnitude like the financial meltdown to really shake up this race. Otherwise, I think, it just sort of stays at its place where it is right now until Election Day.

MONTAGNE: That's NPR's Cokie Roberts.

MONTAGNE: You're listening to Morning Edition from NPR News.

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