· Polls show McCain takes lead from Democrat
· Murdoch paper pledges support for Republicans
White women voters are deserting the Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama because of the sudden emergence on the Republican ticket of Sarah Palin, according to a poll yesterday.
An ABC/Washington Post survey recorded that an eight-point lead Obama held over his Republican rival John McCain before the arrival of Palin had turned into a 12% lead for McCain.
The trend is in line with other polls since McCain’s vice-presidential running mate ignited the Republican convention with a speech last week espousing social conservative values and presenting herself as a small-town mother taking on the cosmopolitan media.
McCain has taken a 3% lead in a tracking poll by the RealClearPolitics website.
Although the momentum has shifted to McCain and Palin, the election will be decided by independents and moderates, where Obama’s domestic and foreign programme should have the greater appeal.
However, the loss of support among white women could be fatal for his chances of winning the presidency if it was to be sustained. Obama had upset this constituency before the conventions, with many Democratic women unhappy that he had dumped their champion, Hillary Clinton, out of the nomination race.
McCain received another boost when Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post backed him in a front-page editorial. Earlier this year, Murdoch, who has extensive media outlets across the US, had hinted of support for Obama.
Palin campaigned with McCain again yesterday, before taking off on her own for what is likely to be a tumultuous return to her home state, Alaska. She is not only bringing in the crowds but also the funding. McCain said a single fundraising event in Chicago had brought in $4m.
The Democrats were initially uncertain about how to respond to Palin, but Obama, in recognition of her impact, now devotes almost as much time to attacking her as he does McCain.
At a rally on Monday, he ran through her CV: “Mother, governor, moose shooter. That’s cool,” he said. But he went on to say that voters had to look beyond and study her record as a Republican to see that she would amount to a continuation of the policies pursued by President George Bush over the past eight years.
Obama’s campaign manager, David Plouffe, acknowledged she had energised the Republican base but said the crux question was whether she would succeed in reaching out to independents in the run-up to the election on November 4.
Obama’s campaign team are continuing to go through her political record in Alaska, in particular her initial support for the Bridge to Nowhere, a $400m link to an island with a population of just 50. She later switched to opposition of the project. Obama said: “You can’t just reinvent yourself. The American people aren’t stupid. What they are looking for is someone who has consistently been calling for change.”
A BBC poll published today will show that, despite the tightness of the race in the US, Obama is the overwhelming favourite in 22 countries. He is preferred to McCain by a four to one margin on average across the 22,000 people polled.
The margin in favour of Obama ranges from just 9% in India to 82% in Kenya. On average 49% prefer Obama to 12% preferring McCain. Nearly four in 10 do not take a position.