DENVER (CNN) - Why is the race for the White House so close? A lot of Democrats here at the site of the Democratic convention are asking me that very question.
The race between Barack Obama and John McCain is a dead heat, according to our new CNN/Opinion Research poll. It’s the first national survey taken entirely after Obama’s public naming of Delaware Senator Joe Biden as his running mate.
Sure, there’s tension among Democrats. Thirty-seven percent of registered Democrats questioned in our survey would like to see the party nominate Senator Hillary Clinton. The senator from New York suspended her bid for the presidency and publicly backed Obama in June after the end of the primary season. Our poll shows more than a quarter of Clinton supporters voting for McCain.
But it’s not just the Democrats.
Republicans are also anything but the picture of unity.
Forty-two percent of Republicans would like to see their party nominate someone other than John McCain. One in five of those anti-McCain Republicans are voting for Barack Obama.
We've got bipartisan disunity! And a very disgruntled electorate.
More than two-thirds disapprove of President Bush. More than two-thirds think things are going badly in the country. Three-quarters of those surveyed say the economy's bad. Two-thirds oppose the war in Iraq.
Imagine what this race would look like if President Bush were running for re-election. Or if Dick Cheney were running to succeed him.
But they're not. McCain is. Same thing, Obama says.
"Unfortunately John McCain's policies borrowing a page from George Bush and Dick Cheney, essentially just more of the same,” says the senator from Illinois.
Not the same thing, McCain says.
"There are issues that I have agreed with the President on, and there are issues that I’ve disagreed on,” says the Senator from Arizona.
So which is it?
The voters are not sure. Half say McCain’s policies would be the same as Bush’s. Half say they would be different.
Suppose you think things are going badly in the country, but you think McCain's policies would be different from Bush's. What do you do?
You vote for McCain, more than 2 to 1.
And that's why the election is close.
All week, the spotlight will be on Obama.
But the most important thing Democrats can do here in Denver is convince voters that McCain means “Four More Years” of Bush.
The survey’s sampling error is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points for all voters. For registered Democrats, it is plus or minus 4.5 percentage points, and for Democrats who still support Clinton for the party's nomination, it is plus or minus 7.5 percentage points.