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Attack ads backfire against McCain, poll shows
[October 16, 2008]

Attack ads backfire against McCain, poll shows

(South Florida Sun-Sentinel Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) WASHINGTON _ The barrage of attack ads that are filling television screens across Florida may have sparked a backlash in the presidential race against Republican John McCain.

That's what some voters indicated in a statewide poll conducted this week for the South Florida Sun Sentinel and the Florida Times-Union.

The poll of 600 likely voters found that one-fifth _ 21 percent _ are less inclined to vote for McCain because of his attacks on Democrat Barack Obama. That includes 20 percent of independent voters in the poll and 9 percent of Republicans.

Both candidates depend on support from independents, especially McCain because of Democratic gains in voter registration.

"It's not a good electoral strategy for John McCain. I don't see how this helps him in Florida," said Del Ali of Research 2000, an independent pollster who conducted the poll. The attack advertising "only helps with people who are going to vote for McCain anyway."

This week's poll indicates that Obama maintains an edge over McCain of 49 percent to 45 percent. The difference matches the poll's margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points, showing a very close race in the largest swing state.

Like many other polls, it reveals a big racial gap.

Some 90 percent of black voters favor Obama, while 52 percent of whites back McCain. Hispanic voters lean slightly to McCain.

Florida and national polls over the past month showed Obama gaining because voters trust him to deal with economic turmoil. But character attacks also have had an impact, perhaps in unintended ways.

Struggling to gain a lead, McCain and running mate Sarah Palin accused Obama of showing poor judgment by associating with William Ayers, a member of the violent Weather Underground in the 1960s. In response, Obama revived McCain's brush with the Keating Five savings-and-loan scandal of the 1980s.

The latest Florida poll indicates that Obama's attacks on McCain have had a negligible impact, while McCain's attacks produced a slight backlash.

"It would have bothered me if Obama had started it with the Keating ad. But the fact is Obama was merely reacting to the Ayers comment," said Jessie Torres, 40, an independent-minded voter who registered Democratic to vote in the party primary.

"I can't stand it," he said of the negative ads. "It's guilt by association, really quite a stretch. I don't see him (Ayers) playing a big role in the Obama campaign."

The focus on Ayers did reinforce the determination of some Republicans to vote for McCain.

"It has pushed me farther from Barack," said Jason Bachman, 29, a Republican who did not participate in the poll. "His connections with some extreme elements are amazing. I wouldn't have coffee with that guy (Ayers.) Someone has to call attention to it. Obama has been able to skate by with easy answers."

Most voters discount the attacks.

"I don't think any person is squeaky clean," said James Dirago, 55, a McCain supporter. "I would prefer they stay on the issues and let people decide who is the best guy."


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