September 2nd, 2008
03:55 PM ET
13 years ago

CNN Poll: McCain faces tall order at GOP convention

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="What does McCain need to do at the RNC this week?"]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.

soundoff (112 Responses)
  1. Paul

    McCain's pick of Sarah Palin seems attractive because some want a women in the White House. My problem with Mrs. Palin is that her current family personal issues (Pregnant daughter, and tiny newborn) is sure to have a psychological impact on all her family members.

    In my view, I hope McCain will retire now at the age of 72.

    September 2, 2008 08:02 pm at 8:02 pm |
  2. Tex

    If any of you out there are Christians, you can never vote for Obama and call yourself a Christian.

    Obama is for late term abortion and even worse – worked to kill the Born Alive Act – effectively killing babies outside the womb – infanticide if you will. Don't take my word for it – look it up. He did it both in Illinois and the US Senate. There is nothing that I can say that is more heinous than this. I hope CNN doesn't censor this because it is 100% true.

    September 2, 2008 08:03 pm at 8:03 pm |
  3. Proud American Too

    Has anyone been watching the Republican National Convention and taken a look at the sea of faces? Has anyone noticed what virtually all of them have in common? Did anyone watch the Democratic National Conveniton and see some striking differnces in the makeup of the delegates? It seems obvious to me that the Democratic Party is far more representative of the nation as a whole

    September 2, 2008 08:03 pm at 8:03 pm |
  4. Erica

    If the American people don't wake up and smell the coffee and see the spin the GOP are trying to put on the selection of McCain's running mate for what it is :LIES, then we are in a world of trouble come November. McCain puts is own selfish ambitions first, and not this country. He is the same as Bush, and we cannot afford another 4 or 8 yrs of this mess. 8 is enough!

    No more McBush!

    September 2, 2008 08:05 pm at 8:05 pm |
  5. Ted

    It is clear why Obama's campaign needs 2500 employees. They spend most of there time spitting venom in forums like this one. It is so obvious that there are a few of them on each one, writing under different names.

    September 2, 2008 08:07 pm at 8:07 pm |
  6. Cindy

    McCain is shooting from the hip and missing the target with every shot.
    OBAMA/BIDEN in 2008!

    September 2, 2008 08:08 pm at 8:08 pm |
  7. Steve

    If America was fool enough to reelect a near imbicile in 2004, what makes all you Democrats think we've suddenly grown wise enough elect a near genius in '08? I do not share your optimism, though morally I feel obligated to vote for Obama. And yes, I do know that for the moment, Obama is up in the polls. That said, however, just wait 'til Karl Rove and his minions send out their lying smut at the last minute and see how smart we Americans appear then when the finally tally is counted.

    September 2, 2008 08:15 pm at 8:15 pm |

    Let the republicans have their party. But if we the United people of America vote them back into office, then we get what we deserve. More of the SAME!

    September 2, 2008 08:17 pm at 8:17 pm |
  9. Leslie from Garden Grove, CA

    I'm hoping that Bush runs up from behind to give Palin and McCain a huge hug as they wave to the audience – more photo opts.

    Give us intelligent leaders! Give us Obama!

    September 2, 2008 08:20 pm at 8:20 pm |
  10. john

    "Observer September 2nd, 2008 5:01 pm ET

    A party in disarray. Lions and tigers and bears–oh my"

    Your right about them Dems! Divided they fall!

    September 2, 2008 08:20 pm at 8:20 pm |
  11. Kim


    September 2, 2008 08:43 pm at 8:43 pm |
  12. sabinus

    voting for McCain in the fall wil be a big mistake, and that will mean puting the future of this great country to distruction.

    September 2, 2008 09:02 pm at 9:02 pm |
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