For First Time, McCain Edges Ahead Of Obama In Tracking Poll

GLENN: About an hour ago Scott Rasmussen put out a new — results of a new poll that show that for the first time John McCain is ahead. You know, I hate looking at these polls now because, you know, "If the election were held today," well, if the election were held today, we would all be surprised what happened in September, October, we would all be shocked. I mean, it’s ridiculous to look at these things now, but it is quite interesting to look at this poll because I can’t believe that with everything that Barack Obama has going for him, he’s not 30 points ahead. But he’s not.

Scott Rasmussen, welcome to the program, sir.

RASMUSSEN: It’s great to be with you, Glenn. By the way, if the election were held today, there’s an awful lot of people that will be relieved it’s over.

GLENN: (Laughing). What is the fatigue? Have you done anything on this? What is the fatigue of the American people on this thing?

RASMUSSEN: I don’t know, but it’s been a long process and what is interesting is that for most of the process, Republicans are really discouraged. They didn’t want anything to do with it, but they are starting to get a little more interest now and that’s partly because their guy isn’t doing as bad as they expected.

GLENN: Yeah, and it’s not — but you know what? He’s also come to the table now on offshore drilling. You know what? I think what’s going to — have you seen anything on this? I think what’s going to hurt McCain is the seeming flip-flopping back and forth, unclear answer on taxes.

RASMUSSEN: Yeah. Taxes are a critical issue for any Republican candidate to be clear on and that has not been his strong suit. The reason that John McCain is doing well right now is because a couple of things. Number win is because it’s all about Obama and right now people are starting to say, we’re not quite as sure. We want to vote for a Democrat; we’re not sure about this Democrat. 46% say Obama looks at American society and sees a society that is unfair and discriminatory and that’s not the way the American people look at it.

On the energy issue, people now trust John McCain more than Obama and that’s specifically related to the offshore drilling initiative that he began. So those things have helped, but taxes is an issue that if John McCain isn’t clear on that at the end of the day, Barack Obama will steal it from him.

GLENN: Do you believe if the election were held today that John McCain would win?

RASMUSSEN: If the election were held today, we would be up very late at night watching the results in a couple of critical states and —

GLENN: Do you believe that — do you believe that people say to you, as a pollster, things that they don’t really believe?

RASMUSSEN: Sometimes some people absolutely do. But the overwhelming majority of people are so thrilled to really have a chance to voice their opinion because nobody really listens to them that the results overall tend to work out very well. And we know that because of other election history, but… we’re talking still three months before the election. And Glenn, one thing that this poll does indicate and it’s details that nobody goes into. One out of three voters still say they might change their mind. I mean, they are not locked in, they aren’t in love with either of these candidates.

GLENN: And is that equal on both sides?

RASMUSSEN: It’s equal on both sides.

GLENN: The idea that you’ve got, what is it, 2% of Democrats changing party affiliation now, is that possibly at all anything with what Rush calls Operation Chaos where he said go register as a Republican and then get out, or do you have any reason to see why people are leaving the Democratic party by 2 percentage points?

RASMUSSEN: Well, I’m sure it has nothing to do with Operation Chaos because our polling measures what people consider themselves. If you were a Republican and you went to register as a Democrat, you would still consider yourself a Republican for when you were talking to all your buddies. But I think what has happened is the Democrats got a huge bump early in the year because people were excited by the competition between Clinton and Obama. And they went, they opened up a 10-point lead over Republicans in terms of partisan ID and now a little bit of that’s fading. The show isn’t quite as good without Hillary in it. Some of her supporters are less enthralled and so there’s just a little bit of a decline. It’s going to be interesting. At this time two years ago, the Democrats, the number of the party ID was starting to surge and that’s what helped push Democrats over the top in their race for control of the Senate. We’ll watch how these trends go in the next few months.

GLENN: Is there any chance that 1% of the U.S. population that is actually going to go out and vote is — because I don’t believe we’re a racist nation. I don’t believe — you know, but I’m a white guy and I don’t see it and, you know, yada, yada, yada. I believe there’s probably 1% of this nation that might say in public or to a pollster, I’ll vote for Barack Obama, you bet, nothing wrong — but when they get into the voting booth that they would close the curtain and say, I’m not voting for a black man. Do you think there’s 1% that would do that?

RASMUSSEN: I think there is some percentage that would do that. None of us know how big it is. I know it is a smaller percentage than we saw a decade ago.

GLENN: What’s your —

RASMUSSEN: I know that two years ago when we did Harold Ford’s race, it was virtually nonexistent. The polls were very good at Harold Ford’s Senate race but there is a difference between voting for U.S. senator and a President. 8%, by the way, 8% of voters tell us they would never vote for an African-American.

GLENN: The idea that Barack Obama is arrogant with, like, things like O Force One, you know, and arugula and, you know, his wife saying $600 earrings, you know, what are you going to do with your tax rebate. I mean, sure you go out and buy $600 earrings. My wife doesn’t have $600 earrings unless I bought them for her.

RASMUSSEN: She needs to work on that.

GLENN: No, she’s working on it quite a bit. Let me rephrase it. My wife won’t go out and buy $600 earrings but she will make sure and go that I go out and buy $600 earrings for her. But is there anything you’re seeing where it’s starting to connect with people that they really are not like the average person, that they are arrogant?

RASMUSSEN: Well, you know, it’s hard to get a precise read on that. We said is somebody arrogant. All the McCain supporters would say yes, Obama’s arrogant and all the Obama supporters would say no. But what we do see happening is Obama’s favorability ratings have begun to sleep. A number of people that have a favorable opinion of him is now down to 51%. That’s the lowest it’s been since he got the nomination. And it’s coming at a time when his support among Democrats is rising. It’s the unaffiliated voters that are beginning to have more doubts. So I would say that maybe partly because of a perception of arrogance. It may be partly because of energy issues. There’s a whole variety of things that could play into it, but — and it may just be, by the way, that in the Internet era, Barack Obama is not a fresh face anymore.

GLENN: Hmmm.

RASMUSSEN: By the way, at the end of the day we talk about all of these things on the margin. Barack Obama is going to have a couple of opportunities to refrain our image of him with his convention and with the debates and with his vice presidential pick. John McCain will do the same. And this is a year, the first year in a long time that what the Kennedys will do in the fall will determine the next President.

GLENN: Is there anybody that either of them should or shouldn’t pick for vice president that you have seen?

RASMUSSEN: Well, if you make the assumption that they get through all the vetting procedures, I think Tim Kaine is a very good choice for Barack Obama because Virginia’s demographics are changing, it is competitive and no Democrat has won Virginia since 1964. So if Tim Kaine could help put a little pressure on in that state. It’s the only southern state that Obama really has a shot in.

GLENN: That’s saying something, isn’t that, Scott, that that’s saying something? That the first African-American can’t really win anything in the south?


RASMUSSEN: That’s correct.

GLENN: Why is that?

RASMUSSEN: I guess if everything implodes, there’s other possible states it could happen but it’s just not showing up anywhere. Georgia is a state where John McCain is consistently ahead. North Carolina is closer than it’s been in recent years but it is still looking like McCain territory.

GLENN: Why —

RASMUSSEN: Virginia.

GLENN: Why is that, Scott?

RASMUSSEN: Several reasons. Number one, because over the years the states with very large African-American populations in the South have — the Democratic party has become almost exclusively African-American. White voters have become Republicans and they are simply not going to turn out. And this year I expect African-American turnout will be higher in those states and I believe white turnout will be higher as well. And it’s not all because of racism. It’s because the races will be a little more competitive and it’s just not heading in Obama’s direction. But Virginia is different. Virginia is a very competitive state right now. And I tell you what, if Barack Obama could win that state, it creates a huge challenge for John McCain.

GLENN: Anybody that John McCain could select?

RASMUSSEN: You know, I’ve been going over this and nobody, there’s no silver bullets. I think the reason that I’ve finally come to that conclusion is most Republicans who have been saying this is the person that John McCain has to pick are people who didn’t really want John McCain to be the nominee and they are saying we need somebody who can win despite of the fact that John McCain is the nominee. There is — you know, you can make a case that Sarah Palin, the Alaskan governor who is very strong on the energy issue.

GLENN: I love her. Can I tell you something? I think she would be a brilliant pick because she’s a total fresh face. She is — she would be, you know, the first woman vice president. She is plain spoken. She is strong on energy. She speaks the language of the American people. I mean, I just think she would be off the charts.

RASMUSSEN: That’s right. And she’s a former beauty queen and captain of her state champion basketball team. What more do you want?

GLENN: Not that that doesn’t hurt. I’m not saying that she’s a hottie but I’m not not saying that, either.

RASMUSSEN: Well, the fact is, Glenn, she is a choice that could be very good. We don’t know how she would perform in that national spotlight but, yeah, she is — especially if Barack Obama does not pick a woman as his vice presidential nominee, that would be a very good pick. The people that I have said consistently should not be picked, and I apologize in advance, the first one on the list is Mitt Romney.

GLENN: I don’t want him to be the vice president quite honestly.

RASMUSSEN: Okay, Mike Huckabee and Condoleezza Rice. They each have reasons why they would be a drag.

GLENN: Hang on. The Mitt Romney thing, is that just the religion again?

RASMUSSEN: Yeah. And it’s also, John McCain needs to look a little less traditional Republican. Newt Gingrich’s line is, you know, another boring white guy.

GLENN: Yeah, okay.

RASMUSSEN: And I don’t think that would necessarily hurt because at the end of the day there’s two things that we know are true about this race. It’s more about Barack Obama than John McCain, and it’s more about the presidential candidates than whoever they pick for vice president. So if it’s not a Sarah Palin, the biggest thing that McCain could do is pick somebody who doesn’t hurt his chances.

GLENN: If there’s a story today in the, oh, I don’t know, Washington Post maybe — I can’t remember where I read it — that the Republicans are going to go for a shutdown of the government just like this happened with Bill Clinton and the Republican congress, that they’re going to go for a shutdown of the congress, if Harry Reid doesn’t strip out of the operating budget the ban on offshore drilling, how would that play?

RASMUSSEN: Well, you know, it’s impossible to know how it would play because we don’t know what the performers would do. The last time this was tried, the very first wave of polling in 1995 showed it was good for the Republicans and that’s how crazy we are remembering that. But that’s because the general public reaction was, well action wait a minute, if these are all nonessential employees, why don’t we just get rid of them entirely. And so the first bit of polling was okay. But then Bill Clinton shifted. You want to talk about how long it was for government employees to leave them in limbo and Dick Armey and Newt Gingrich began talking presidential politics. They had a press conference where they said we’re not going to concede until the White House agrees to use CBO numbers for scoring of the budget. And nobody even knew what they were talking about. Nobody —

GLENN: But this is different. If you are talking about, if the Republicans come out and say we’re talking about oil.

RASMUSSEN: Right.

GLENN: And 65% say we want to drill oil and become as energy independent as we possibly can, I can’t imagine how that couldn’t be argued in an effective way.

RASMUSSEN: Yeah, you just said — I absolutely agree with you. It could be a winning position. But they have to make the argument in terms, how you mentioned how Sarah Phelan talked about, it’s got to be in terms that people would understand far beyond the Washington beltway. And if they do that, it can be a big plus. Anything they can do to focus on the fact that they are looking for aggressive ways to get more energy and Democrats are reluctant, that’s a good positioning for the Republican party.

GLENN: Scott Rasmussen from the Rasmussen Reports. Have you seen anything on race? You know, last week the John McCain ad came out, and I said last week, this is, this is ridiculous. The guy who’s playing the race card is Barack Obama. He is saying, "Oh, they’re going to make you afraid of me." And I challenged him then: Tell me who is saying these things and I will stand with you against them. But you’re just making these charges up and saying something that I haven’t heard anybody say.

RASMUSSEN: Well, we didn’t poll, you know, who —

GLENN: No, no, no, no.

RASMUSSEN: You poll the — among people who heard of the ad that the McCain campaign ran with Britney Spears and Paris Hilton, only 22% believe that ad was racist. 53% believe that Barack Obama’s comment about they’re going to try to scare you because I don’t look like the other Presidents on the dollar bill, 53% believe that comment was racist.

GLENN: Wow, wow. Okay. Scott, thank you very much. I appreciate it, man.

RASMUSSEN: Thank you, Glenn.