USA Today/Gallup poll: Obama most electable

USA Today/Gallup poll says Obama
seen as most electable for president

From USA Today / Gallup poll:
Democrats: Obama 51, Clinton 39.
Republicans: McCain 61, Huckabee 23.
By Susan Page
THE SENSE that Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is more electable than Hillary Rodham Clinton has trumped concerns about whether he has the experience necessary to be a good president, a new USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds.
The air of inevitability that once surrounded Clinton has shifted to the Illinois senator, now seen by seven in 10 Americans as the likely Democratic nominee.
In a poll taken Thursday through Sunday, Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents say by 2-1 that Obama has the better chance of beating the Republican in November. Republicans agree: By more than 3-1, they say likely GOP nominee John McCain has a better chance of beating Clinton than Obama.
That’s true even though Americans are split, 46%-46%, over whether Obama, a first-term senator, has the experience to be president. In contrast, Clinton is seen as having enough experience by 2-1, McCain by 3-1.
Still, 29% of those who say Obama doesn’t have enough experience support him against McCain. Other priorities determine their votes. Those surveyed rank “leadership and vision” and positions on issues as more important than experience.
“Obama has transitioned from a movement leader to a presidential leader,” says Democratic pollster Celinda Lake, saying he has “crossed the threshold” to being judged able to handle the job.
However, Clinton could rebound by winning the Texas and Ohio primaries next week, Lake says. And Obama’s lead could make Clinton the underdog, perhaps prompting some voters, particularly baby boomer women, to “give her a second look.”
Obama and Clinton face off at 9 ET Tuesday night at Cleveland State University for a debate televised on MSNBC.
In a general-election matchup among registered voters, Obama leads McCain by 4 percentage points, 49%-45%; McCain leads Clinton 49%-47%.
McCain does better among likely voters, edging Clinton by 4 points, Obama by 1.
The Arizona senator seems to have the Republican nomination in hand, crushing former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee 61%-23% among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents.
Among Democrats, Obama has surged to a double-digit lead, thumping Clinton 51%-39%. It is the first time Obama has topped 50% and the first time he has led Clinton outside the survey’s margin of error.
However, the 12-point lead is at odds with a separate Gallup tracking poll, taken Friday through Sunday, that gave Obama a 47%-45% edge.
Frank Newport, editor in chief of the Gallup Poll, attributed the disparity to sampling error and the contest’s volatility. “There’s just a lot of movement,” he says. “Democrats are not yet totally honed in on exactly who they’re going to vote for.”
Clinton strategist Mark Penn concurs. Obama’s wide lead “is reflective of momentum from the last series of primaries,” he says. “We expect the polls to snap back to Hillary if we are successful in Ohio and Texas.”
The telephone poll of 2,021 adults has a margin of error of +/—2 percentage points. The margin of error for the subsample of 1,009 Democrats is +/—3 points; for the Republican sample of 829, it is +/—4 points.

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