Signs That Obama Speech May Have Helped, But Some Doubts Persist

Posted March 21, 2008 at 4:17pm

While the controversy over Barack Obama’s ex-pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, has taken a toll on his campaign that has yet to be overcome, two polls today – from Gallup and Rasmussen Reports -suggested that Obama’s Philadelphia speech may have helped him reverse some of the damage, although there is still a significant number of voters left with doubts.

Hillary Clinton’s lead over Obama, which had grown to as much as 7 points this week, has now dropped back to a statistically insignificant 47 percent to 45 percent, according to the Gallup daily tracking poll. The poll was conducted March 18-20 and has a 3 point margin of error. Gallup said: “The surge in Democrats’ preference for Clinton that Gallup detected earlier in the week has started to move out of the three-day rolling average, and the race is back to a near tie. It is possible that Obama’s aggressive efforts to defuse the Wright story, including a major speech on race on March 11, have been effective.” Still, Gallup cautioned, “Obama has yet to recover fully from the apparent damage done by the Wright controversy. It was only one week ago that Obama led the race by a significant six-point margin over Clinton, 50% to 44%.”

A Rasmussen Reports survey, conducted March 19-20, said that among the 84 percent of likely voters who had seen or heard at least some portion of Obama’s speech, 51 percent rated it good, 26 percent said it was fair and 21 percent said it was poor. The partisan breakdown had 67 percent of Democrats saying it was good compared to 53 percent of unaffiliated voters and 31 percent of Republicans. Along the racial divide, 86 percent of black voters called it good compared to 45 percent of white voters.

Rasmussen said 56 percent of voters said they remained somewhat or very concerned about Obama’s relationship with Wright despite the speech. When Fox News asked, in the poll it released yesterday, whether that relationship “made you have doubts about Obama, or not,” 54 percent answered “no” compared to 35 percent who said “yes.” About three-quarters of Republicans, slightly more than half of unaffiliated voters and slightly less than half of Democrats said they still felt that concern. In the Fox news survey, 66 percent of Republicans said the Wright connection still made them have doubts about Obama compared to 27 percent for independents and 26 percent for Democrats.