USA - 2008 election

Presidential race tightens in polls

As the dates of Republican and Democratic conventions loom, John McCain is closing the gap with Barack Obama in at least two polls. Both candidates have yet to reveal who their running mate will be.


Surging Republican John McCain has narrowed the White House race to a statistical dead heat, halving Barack Obama's opinion poll leads as the Democrat gears up for his nominating convention next week.

A CBS/New York Times poll found senator McCain had punched deep into Obama's advantage in just two weeks, while an NBC/Wall Street Journal survey confirmed the finding, revealing the Illinois senator's lead had "nearly disappeared."

The latest national figures came with the US media fixated over the looming vice presidential picks of each candidate and ahead of an intense two-and-a-half month sprint towards polling day in November.

Obama's camp, sensing McCain's momentum, on Wednesday branded the Vietnam war veteran as "trigger-happy" on foreign policy, while McCain suggested his foe was "testy" after a thorough critique of his national security credentials.

In the CBS data, Obama led 45 to 42 percent, within the poll's margin of error. The Democrat had led by six points last month.

NBC also had the Obama up 45 to 42, in the latest sign that McCain has built a head of steam, after several weeks of harsh attacks on Obama, whom his campaign has mocked as "the world's biggest celebrity."

Earlier, a new George Washington University survey found McCain led the accelerating race by a single point, suggesting his new robust strategy was paying off.

McCain appears to have closed the gap partly by stressing energy policy, as 40 percent of those polled by George Washington University said he was the best bet to peg back high gasoline prices compared to 37 percent who liked Obama.

In May, Obama had led on that question by 19 percent, but McCain's demands for an expansion of off-shore oil drilling appeared to be bearing fruit, despite Democratic claims it would do little to cut prices at the pump.

Only a month ago, McCain faced claims he was running a stuttering, off-message campaign, but is in better shape ahead of his own nominating conventions in Minnesota between September 1 and 4.

Both campaigns meanwhile kept a tight clamp on the identity of their vice presidential nominees, with Obama expected to name his number two within days.

"No hints. No new hints," Obama said when asked about the heated vice presidential rumor mill at a farmers' market in Greensboro, North Carolina on Wednesday.

Reports say Obama has narrowed his shortlist of running mates to three -- senators Joseph Biden and Evan Bayh and Virginia Governor Tim Kaine -- although a surprise pick is also a possibility.

His campaign plans to announce the selection to supporters by text message and email, and Obama is likely to campaign with his sidekick Saturday, in Springfield, Illinois, where he launched his White House quest in February 2007.

McCain campaign officials meanwhile were unwilling to comment on the speculation.

But former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani, on a conference call, commented on reports that McCain could choose a vice presidential nominee who backs abortion rights, which would dismay the conservative wing of the party.

"I know John McCain, I know his ... love of country -- he will choose the best person, and if that person happens to be, among other things, pro-choice, the party will support that."

The Republican Party meanwhile began to detail its plans for its convention between September 1 and 4 in St Paul, Minnesota.

Senator Joseph Lieberman, who was on the Democratic ticket as Al Gore's number two in 2000 and ran for the party's nomination himself in 2004, will attend the Republican convention and back McCain, Republican officials said.

The hawkish Connecticut lawmaker broke with his party over Iraq and sits as an independent in the Senate, and has savaged Obama's credentials as a potential commander in chief.

The George Washington University poll was conducted among 1,003 registered likely voters, with a margin of error of plus or minus three percent.

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