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Poll: Vice presidential choices didn't break tie in Florida

Sarah Palin shores up McCain’s support among evangelicals, but a pollster says the choice is being eclipsed by the economy.

Associated Press

Sarah Palin shores up McCain’s support among evangelicals, but a pollster says the choice is being eclipsed by the economy.

Call it a wash.

A new statewide poll of Florida voters finds Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain helped themselves with their vice presidential picks — but not enough to give either candidate a significant bump over the other.

For Democrat Barack Obama, the good news is that his selection of Sen. Joe Biden, the veteran senator from Delaware, didn't drive away supporters of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton who had hoped Obama would choose her as his running mate.

For Republican John McCain, the good news is that his selection of Sarah Palin, the charismatic, fresh-faced governor of Alaska, shored up his support among evangelical voters — a key part of the Republican base who had been lukewarm about McCain — as well as men and older women.

But a new St. Petersburg Times/Bay New 9/Miami Herald poll also found that Palin has not brought the bounce among women overall that many Republican analysts had predicted for McCain. Both candidates also lost some support due to their picks, the poll found, but not enough to offset the gains.

According to the poll, 40 percent of voters say Palin makes them more likely to vote for McCain, while 34 percent say she makes them less likely to vote for McCain.

Meanwhile, 36 percent say Biden makes them more likely to vote for Obama, while 28 percent say he makes them less likely to vote for Obama.

"It's a tie," said Tom Eldon, a Democratic pollster for SEA Polling and Strategic Design, which produced the poll in conjunction with the Polling Co., a Republican firm.

He argued that other issues, particularly the nation's economic woes, have eclipsed the vice presidential choices, even McCain's surprising choice of Palin, who continues to draw big crowds. She is scheduled to campaign today in the Villages in Central Florida.

"Unless Sarah Palin … or Biden is going to do an hourlong press conference about how they're going to fix Wall Street, I don't see how they factor into this," Eldon said.

The telephone survey was conducted from a list of 800 registered voters across Florida on Sept. 14-17. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

Overall, the poll showed the presidential race in a statistical tie, with 47 percent of likely voters backing McCain and 45 percent backing Obama.

But Kellyanne Conway, president of the Polling Co., argued that the static nature of the race shows Palin has helped McCain, given the difficult climate for Republican candidates and the resources that Obama has pumped into Florida.

"With all the environmental dynamics stacked up against anybody who's running as a Republican this year, coupled with Obama's significant financial advantage, then one has to suspect that the Palin pick was net positive, because he didn't lose any ground," Conway said.

Palin also helped McCain improve his standing among voters older than 65, Hispanics, and moms, like Krista Wahl, 31, of West Melbourne.

"Loving Sarah Palin," said Wahl, a high school science teacher on hiatus to stay home with her 1-year-old son. "I really respect the fact that Palin got where she is now not by a name but by hard work, and she has done so much in a short amount of time. That's really impressive to me."

Other key findings:

• Among Clinton supporters, 16 percent said Palin made them more likely to vote for McCain — but 56 percent said Biden made them more likely to vote for Obama.

• Among working women, 34 percent said they were more likely to vote for McCain because of Palin, but 36 percent said they were now less likely to vote for him. Conversely, 40 percent of working women said the selection of Biden made them more likely to vote for Obama, compared to 25 percent who said they were now less likely to back Obama.

• Among men, 42 percent said Palin makes them more likely to vote for McCain, compared to just 37 percent of women overall.

• And among white born-again Christians, a crucial part of the Republican base, a whopping 60 percent say they are now more likely to vote for McCain because of Palin.

While Palin may have proved helpful among conservatives, Biden's 35 years in the Senate seems to have been a plus for Obama, a first-term senator. When asked for their first impression of Biden, 21 percent said "experience," more than any other attribute.

For Beth Beall of Land O'Lakes, a former Clinton supporter, Biden certainly helped balance Obama's resume.

"At first I was like, pick Hillary, but the more I thought about it I didn't think … they would be a good match," said Beall, 45, an administrative assistant and Democrat.

"I may not agree with everything he's done, but he's solid, he's known, he shows experience. Says things he probably shouldn't sometimes, but I don't feel like he's coached."

Times staff writer Alex Leary contributed to this report. Wes Allison can be reached at allison@sptimes.com or (202) 463-0577.

Poll: Vice presidential choices didn't break tie in Florida 09/20/08 [Last modified: Friday, September 26, 2008 2:00pm]
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