Poll: McCain over Obama, 54-44

A new survey shows John McCain got a big boost from his party's convention -- will it last?

Published September 8, 2008 1:06PM (EDT)

A USA Today/Gallup poll released Monday suggests that John McCain won the battle of the convention boosts over Barack Obama. The survey showed likely voters supporting McCain over Obama 54-44. McCain holds a slightly smaller lead among registered voters; among that group, he's ahead 50-46.

This marks a dramatic contrast with data Gallup collected for its daily tracking poll before the Republican convention was held last week; then, Obama was ahead by 7 points.

Like any poll conducted this far from Election Day, the key question about the results is whether they'll hold up. USA Today posed that question to U.Va. professor Larry Sabato, the political scientist famed in large part for being constantly quoted in media reports about politics. Sabato has analyzed political conventions since 1960, studying the impact they ultimately have on elections. He's not convinced they have lasting effects. "You could flip a coin and be about as predictive" as post-convention polls, Sabato said. "It is really surprising how quickly convention memories fade."

It's entirely possible, as Sabato says, that this could just be a snapshot in time -- polls done at this early date often are just that. But it is interesting to note the enthusiasm the choice of Sarah Palin has brought to the Republican ticket. "Before the convention, Republicans by 47%-39% were less enthusiastic than usual about voting," USA Today's Susan Page says. "Now, they are more enthusiastic by 60%-24%, a sweeping change that narrows a key Democratic advantage."

And, unsurprisingly, the poll also shows that Palin's speech in St. Paul, Minn., overshadowed McCain's. Forty-two percent of respondents rated Palin's address as "excellent." Only 15 percent said the same of McCain's.

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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2008 Elections Barack Obama John Mccain R-ariz.