ST. PAUL, Minnesota (CNN) – Call it John McCain’s to-do list here at the Republican National Convention.
A new national poll suggests that job number one for the presumptive Republican presidential nominee may be to distance himself from President Bush.
In a CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll released Tuesday, only one in three Americans approve of the job President Bush is doing. A quarter of those polled say George W. Bush is the worst president in U.S. history, and six in ten have an unfavorable view of him personally.
And the poll raises an alarm bell for McCain, R-Arizona, and the Republican Party.
“More troubling for the GOP: A majority of those polled now say that McCain's policies would be the same as Bush's, a number that has risen slightly in the wake of the Democratic convention,” CNN Polling Director Keating Holland said.
Bush will speak to the convention by remote Tuesday night, rather than addressing the delegates in person.
“The good news is, Bush will be speaking from the White House, 1,000 miles away,” CNN Senior Political Analyst Bill Schneider said. “No photo ops of McCain and Bush raising arms. The Democratic convention did do some damage to McCain. Remember how Senator Barack Obama kept saying McCain equals four more years of Bush? It worked.”
The survey indicates task number two is regaining an advantage on the Iraq issue.
McCain had a 53-44 percent edge among Americans on the question of which candidate was best-equipped to handle the Iraq war prior to the Democratic Convention in Denver. Now the two candidates are essentially tied on the issue.
“Given Obama's edge on the economy, and with three in four saying the country is in a recession, if McCain can't win back the Iraq issue, he may not have anything else to work with. This should be an easy task for McCain, since optimism about the war has grown,” Holland said. “Roughly half say the U.S. is winning the war, up from about a third last summer, and 58 percent say the U.S. can win the war.”
“There’s a lot more optimism about the war in Iraq. More Americans believe the U.S. can win and will win. What an irony - just when voters think the war is going better, they take the issue away from McCain,” Schneider added.
Job number three, according to the poll, is to energize the party.
The poll indicates that two-thirds of Democrats are enthusiastic about voting. Only 49 percent of Republicans feel the same way.
“Motivating the base is what conventions do best. Enthusiasm among Democrats went up 11 points after their convention this year,” Holland said.
“McCain's got to get Republicans to where Democrats are - 'All fired up, ready to go!"' Schneider said.
Last but not least, the poll suggests job number four for McCain is to unite the party.
“We spent a lot of time talking about how divided the Democrats were between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Well, guess what? Republicans are just as divided,” says Schneider.
Thirty-eight percent of registered Republicans questioned in the poll say they would prefer someone other than McCain as their party’s nominee.
“That's almost identical to the 37 percent of Democrats who wanted Hillary Clinton as their party's nominee,” Holland said. “Before the convention, 27 percent of Clinton Democrats said they would vote for McCain in the fall. After Denver, that number dropped eight points.”
Schneider added: “The Democratic convention was a sustained effort to reconcile differences in the party and pull together behind the nominee. The Republicans have to make just as big an effort.”
The poll was conducted August 29-31, following the Democratic Convention and McCain’s naming of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate. Interviews with 1,031 people were conducted by telephone. The survey’s sampling error is plus or minus 3 percentage points.