Poll: Obama Opens 14-Point Lead On McCain

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Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama is entering the third and final presidential debate Wednesday with a wide lead over Republican rival John McCain nationally, a new CBS News/New York Times poll shows.

The Obama-Biden ticket now leads the McCain-Palin ticket 53 percent to 39 percent among likely voters, a 14-point margin. One week ago, prior to the Town Hall debate that uncommitted voters saw as a win for Obama, that margin was just three points.

Among independents who are likely voters - a group that has swung back and forth between McCain and Obama over the course of the campaign - the Democratic ticket now leads by 18 points. McCain led among independents last week.

McCain's campaign strategy may be hurting hurt him: Twenty-one percent of voters say their opinion of the Republican has changed for the worse in the last few weeks. The top two reasons cited for the change of heart are McCain's attacks on Obama and his choice of Sarah Palin as running mate.

Read The Complete CBS News/NY Times Poll On The Presidential Race
Obama is widely seen as running the more positive campaign: Sixty-one percent of those surveyed say McCain is spending more time attacking his opponent than explaining what he would do as president. Just 27 percent say the same of Obama.

McCain's favorable rating has fallen four points from last week, to 36 percent, and is now lower than his 41 percent unfavorable rating. Obama, by contrast, is now viewed favorably by half of registered voters and unfavorably by just 32 percent.

Obama holds a considerable edge over his rival on having the right "personality and temperament" to be president, with 69 percent saying Obama does and 53 percent saying McCain does. The Democratic nominee is also widely seen as more likely to make the right decision on the economy, far and away the top issue for voters, in a survey taken in the immediate aftermath of last week's historic Wall Street losses.

Opinions of the candidates could still change, and potential trouble spots remain for Obama, among them the fact that small percentages of voters cite Obama's past associations with Bill Ayers (9 percent) and Reverend Jeremiah Wright (11 percent) as issues that bother them.

But with more than four out of five of each candidate's supporters now saying their minds are made up, the poll suggests that McCain faces serious challenges as he looks to close the gap on his Democratic rival in the final three weeks of the campaign.

Views Of The Candidates

Obama's lead over McCain when it comes to the economy has grown since last week, and a majority of registered voters now say they are not confident in McCain to make the right decisions on economic issues. Thirty-nine percent are not confident in Obama.

There is, however, an opening for the candidates in this area: Fewer than one quarter are presently very confident in either Obama or McCain to make the right decisions on the economic crisis.

On raising taxes - an area where a Republican nominee might be expected to have an edge - Obama also leads. Despite the McCain campaign's efforts to cast Obama as a tax-raiser, more registered voters say McCain is likely to raise their taxes (51 percent) than say Obama will raise their taxes (46 percent).

Voters are almost three times more likely to be very confident in Obama when it comes to health care (28 percent) than McCain (10 percent). A majority of voters, 54 percent, are not confident in McCain to handle health care, while 33 percent are not confident in Obama.

McCain continues to be hurt by his perceived ties to the unpopular Republican president, George W. Bush, whose approval rating is 24 percent. More than half of registered voters surveyed say they expect McCain to continue Mr. Bush's economic policies if he is elected.

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