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Obama Leads by 8 Points In Poll

If Barack Obama's historic campaign to become the first black president boosts black turnout as drastically as he predicts, he could crack decades of Republican dominance across the South. Video by AP

McCain's challenges, by contrast, are more apparent on domestic matters, a potentially significant political problem for him. More than 6 in 10 of those surveyed said their financial situation causes them stress, and there is widespread anxiety among voters dealing with news of layoffs, rising oil prices, shaky financial institutions and a tumbling stock market.

Asked whom they trust more to handle the economy, 54 percent named Obama, while 35 percent said McCain. Obama also holds double-digit leads on dealing with the federal budget deficit and on immigration. On social issues such as abortion and same-sex civil unions, 56 percent prefer Obama, 32 percent McCain.

Another area of vulnerability for McCain is his age. He will turn 72 this summer and would be the oldest first-term president. More than 4 in 10 Americans said they thought McCain's age would hurt him in the White House, 33 percent said it would help, and the rest said it would make no difference or had no opinion.

One positive for both candidates is that most of their supporters are solidly behind them. Seventy-two percent of those backing Obama said they will definitely vote for him, and a similar percentage of McCain's supporters, 71 percent, said they will not waver. Sixteen percent of Obama's backers and 28 percent of McCain's said their support was primarily in opposition to the other candidate. That is a sharp contrast to 2004, when 56 percent of those supporting Democratic Sen. John F. Kerry at this stage in the campaign said they were doing so mostly because they were "against Bush."

Majorities of Americans said Obama and McCain have each done enough to explain why they want to be president, but the public is evenly split over whether Obama has sufficiently described what he means by "change," the central theme of his campaign. Even some Democratic analysts have encouraged the Democrat to do more to link his call for change with specific policies and priorities to give a clearer picture of how he would govern.

Neither candidate has been successfully tagged as a "flip-flopper," at least not more than the other: Forty-nine percent said Obama has been flip-flopping on the issues, while 47 percent said the same about McCain. Asked who has been more consistent on his issue positions, 45 percent said Obama, and 43 percent said McCain. It is unclear how much such charges would hurt: Nearly 8 in 10, 78 percent, said it is more important for a candidate to adjust positions to changing circumstances than to stick to his original stands (18 percent prioritize consistency).

Obama's current eight-point lead depends in large part on support from women. Men divide about evenly, while the Democrat leads by 15 points among women (54 percent to 39 percent). Obama has now pulled even with McCain among white women, for his best showing among this group since April.

Overall, though, there are still holdouts among those who backed Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) in the Democratic primaries. In the new poll, 23 percent of those who wanted Clinton to prevail said they will vote for McCain, about the same number as in Post-ABC polls since early March. But those Clinton backers who do support Obama are not doing so grudgingly, as three-quarters of them said their vote will be more pro-Obama than anti-McCain.

Among independents, the poll shows Obama with a lead of 49 percent to 40 percent. Last month the challengers were essentially tied among independents.

Obama now leads by 2 to 1 among voters 18 to 34 years old. Among seniors, 45 percent support McCain and 40 percent back Obama.

Among white voters, McCain has an advantage of 50 percent to 42 percent , while 94 percent of African Americans support Obama. The candidates are tied among whites who earn less than $50,000 a year, while McCain leads by 10 percentage points among those earning more than that.

The poll was conducted by telephone July 10 to 13 among a random national sample of 1,119 adults, including 971 registered voters. The margin of sampling error for the full sample and for voters is plus or minus three percentage points; it is larger for subgroups.

Polling analyst Jennifer Agiesta and assistant polling analyst Kyle Dropp contributed to this report.

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