Sen. Barack Obama has edged ahead of Sen. John McCain in the Gallup Poll’s latest daily tracking survey of registered voters, but the Illinois Democrat’s narrow, three-percentage-point advantage is within the poll’s margin of error.
Gallup said yesterday that the lead was an improvement in Mr. Obama’s numbers in the past week when the Arizona Republican was leading by as many as three points, though their head-to-head numbers have been close since Gallup began its tracking polls in mid-March.
In a separate national survey yesterday conducted for the Reuters news agency, pollster John Zogby had Mr. Obama opening up a larger eight-point lead - 48 percent to 40 percent - over the presumptive Republican nominee.
The Reuters/Zogby poll was taken Thursday through Sunday after Mr. McCain had leveled a major attack on the freshman senator for saying he would sit down with leaders of rogue nations, such as Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, without any preconditions.
With Mr. Obama within 70 votes of the 2,026 convention delegates that he needs to clinch the Democratic nomination, the focus of pollsters has turned increasingly to matchup polls between the two prospective nominees - even though Mrs. Clinton remains a candidate. There are three more contests before the primary process ends on June 3, although they do not offer the number of delegates that she needs to catch up to her rival for the nomination.
While the latest Gallup and Zogby polls show the respective strengths of Mr. Obama and Mr. McCain in national matchups, election strategists in their camps are paying much closer attention to polls in the battleground states where the state-by-state contests for 270 electoral votes will decide who wins in November.
According to state polling averages monitored by the RealClearPolitics Web site, Mr. McCain has a razor-thin 1.3 percent edge in Democrat-leaning Ohio, turning that contest into a statistical dead heat.
In Florida, the veteran senator has a nine-point average lead, while in Wisconsin - a must-win state for the Democrats - Mr. Obama held a slim 1.6 percent edge that has turned the race there into a tossup.
Mrs. Clinton has maintained that her primary victories in the big states such as Pennsylvania, California, New Jersey and Ohio showed that she was the stronger candidate. But her argument was undermined by the latest national polls showing her rival taking an early lead over Mr. McCain.
“As the primary and caucus season winds down and his nomination appears increasingly likely, Obama has in recent days enjoyed his strongest showing in Gallup Poll Daily tracking. While he also held double-digit leads at earlier points in the campaign, he has not been able to sustain a lead of that size until now,” Gallup said.
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