(CNN) - After the long, bruising primary battle with Hillary Clinton, a lot of Democrats were concerned Barack Obama would have a problem getting support from women, but the big surprise is that it could be men who become the deciding factor this election cycle.
According to the latest CNN Opinion Research Corporation Poll Obama is running nearly even with John McCain among men. McCain has a slight edge with 49 percent to Obama’s 47 percent. Meanwhile, Obama leads McCain by 9 points among women 52 percent to 43 percent.
The support from men has become crucial for Republicans in past elections.
According to exit polls from the 2000 election, 53 percent of men helped George W. Bush get elected in 2000, with only 42 percent of men supporting Al Gore. In 2004 George Bush was re-elected with 55 percent support from men to John Kerry’s 44 percent. Most women voted for Gore and Kerry.
In fact, in the last nine presidential elections going back to 1972, men have voted for the Democrat only twice: for Jimmy Carter in 1976, when the economy was bad and a Republican was in the White House. And for Bill Clinton in 1992, when the economy was bad and a Republican was in the White House.
In the 2008 presidential cycle, the economy is bad and a Republican is in the White House, giving Obama a foothold with male voters.
Forty-four percent of men ranked the economy as their number one concern and among the nearly half of men who say their top concern is the economy, Obama has a 7 point lead, 52 percent to McCain’s 45 percent.
That's the thing about the gender gap. It's usually taken to mean women vote Democratic. But it also means men vote Republican — at least, it used to.