Republican presidential nominee John McCain's campaign this morning pushed back hard against a new Washington Post-ABC News national poll that shows Democratic nominee Barack Obama leading McCain by 52 percent to 43 percent, a substantial shift from the dead heat the poll found two weeks ago.
The new lead, the poll found, has been driven by the country's economic turmoil and the greater trust surveyed voters say they place in Obama on economic issues. "Economy voters," the survey found, preferred Obama 2 to 1.
But in a nearly hourlong conference call with reporters just two days before the crucial first presidential debate, McCain's lead pollster Bill McInturff criticized the survey as an "outlier." He said it is not reflective of other polls that show a tight race, particularly in 12 battleground states that the GOP camp has been focused on.
"We have an incredibly stable race," said McInturff, who insisted that the campaign's internal tracking has not revealed any volatility in public opinion over the past 2½ weeks as the financial crisis has unfurled. Professing respect for the Post-ABC pollsters, he added, "I don't think these results are at all indicative of what's happening in the campaign."
"The race," he said, "is margin of error nationally." The poll-tracking website RealClearPolitics.com shows Obama currently with an aggregate 3.2 percentage-point edge in an average of national polls.
McInturff also suggested that historic polling models being used are obsolete because they are unable to factor in what is expected to be record turnout—he predicts 125 million—and unprecedented excitement. "Lots and lots of people no one has ever seen before" are going to show up and vote in this election, he said.
He and Sarah Simmons, the campaign's strategy director, said the McCain camp believes that voters have yet to resolve how they feel about the financial crisis—and whom they blame. And they predicted that McCain's edge with voters on the issues of experience and leadership will emerge as his strength as the crisis plays out.
Oh, and about the Sarah Palin effect: "She's a big deal," McInturff said of McCain's running mate. And if not for the economic crisis, she'd still be a big national story. "She's had an extraordinary effect," he said.