McCain’s Camp Disputes Poll

Posted September 24, 2008 at 11:14am

The campaign of Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) Wednesday criticized a new poll showing Democratic candidate Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) 9 points ahead, calling the survey an outlier that fails to track other polls.

In a conference call with reporters, chief McCain pollster Bill McInturff said the poll surveyed too many Democrats. The survey, conducted by ABC News and the Washington Post, assumes a 16-point margin for Democratic registered voters over Republicans, an amount he said is far outside the real range and skews the poll toward Obama. McInturff said the correct range is 4 to 8 points, and that McCain is running ahead of the margin.

The ABC News/ Washington Post poll puts Obama ahead by 52-43 percent among likely registered voters. The spread is 52-42 percent if all registered voters are counted.

McInturff pointed to other polls conducted in recent days that show a race within the polling margin of error, which is where he believes the correct margin lies.

In a response to a request for comment, Washington Post pollster Jon Cohen noted that among likely voters — those included in the 9-point spread — the poll finds an advantage for Democrats of only 6 points, which he said is average for the Post’s polling this year.

According to RealClearPolitics.com, the average of recently conducted polls puts Obama about 3 points ahead of McCain. Gallup and Opinion Research polls conducted over about the same time frame as the Washington Post/ABC News poll show Obama ahead, respectively, by 3 and 4 points.

McInturff acknowledged that voters are heavily focused on the economy, an Obama strength, but he noted that Republicans are preferred on taxes and energy, which could help McCain eat into Obama’s advantage on the economy.

Chief McCain strategist Sarah Simmons, who was also on the call, argued the financial crisis would prompt voters to look at the candidates’ leadership credentials, a McCain strength.

McInturff pointed to the significance of the debates — which begin Friday — casting the period during which they will be conducted as an analytical “black hole” out of which anything could emerge.

“I think the debates will, in fact, have consequences,” he said.