With just two weeks to go before the Iowa caucuses, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama’s presidential campaign is focusing on new poll numbers that highlight his electability. A new Washington Post-ABC News poll released Wednesday showed Obama garnering 33 percent support among likely Democratic voters in Iowa, with Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., behind him at 29 percent and former North Carolina Senator John Edwards in third at 20 percent.
However, in a significant shift for Obama, he now runs roughly even with Clinton on the question of who would be most electable in a general election, a USA/Gallup poll reports. Just one month ago, he trailed his chief rival by 14 points.
In a conference call with reporters Thursday, Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine and Iowa State Rep. Pam Jochum talked about Obama’s appeal to Independent and moderate Republican voters. Kaine said Obama’s candidacy put the historically Republican state of Virginia in play for the Democrats in a general election. He said he has seen interest in Obama’s candidacy among the same independents and moderates that helped elect him in 2005.
“It’s that slice of the electorate that is very, very energized by Senator Obama’s campaign,” Kaine said.
On the campaign trail, Obama spent most of the week in New Hampshire, a state where the Independent vote will be critical to the Illinois senator’s presidential hopes. In Exeter, N.H., Thursday, Obama sat down with a group of Independents to discuss restoring trust in government.
“Instead of just putting someone in office to play the game, we need to finally put an end to the game-playing,” Obama told the roundtable participants, according to a campaign press release. “Instead of partisan warfare, we need to recapture our sense of a common purpose — and common destiny — in this country.”
Also Thursday, Obama received the endorsement of the Portsmouth Herald, a Granite State newspaper.
“He has tapped into the hunger for change among the electorate, but has made no promises that he can’t keep,” the editorial board wrote. “He has framed the problems in the country not by blaming one person such as President Bush, but by calling for collective responsibility from Republican and Democratic politicians and voters alike.”
The Herald’s endorsement came several days after The Boston Globe also endorsed Obama’s candidacy.
In the media, Obama faced questions Thursday about a New York Times article that examined whether Obama’s frequent “present” votes when he was an Illinois state senator allowed him to sidestep difficult issues.
“The record has become an issue on the presidential campaign trail, as Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, his chief rival for the Democratic nomination, has seized on the present votes he cast on a series of anti-abortion bills to portray Mr. Obama as a ‘talker’ rather than a ‘doer,’” write the Times’ Raymond Hernandez and Christopher Drew.
Obama responded during an interview on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”
“This was a standard practice in Illinois,” Obama said. “Often times, I would strategically vote present because we were negotiating a bill or because there was some element in the bill that was unconstitutional or had problems that needed to be tweaked.”
Looking ahead, Obama is heading back to the Hawkeye State Friday for three days of town hall meetings and meet-the-candidate forums. Obama’s wife, Michelle, will also be in Iowa over the weekend. The campaign plans to pause operations for the Christmas holiday. And speaking of Christmas, the entire Obama clan is featured in a new holiday ad.