WASHINGTON - Despite an effort to distance himself from the way his party has done business in Washington, Sen. John McCain is seen by voters as less likely to bring change to Washington than Sen. Barack Obama.
McCain is widely viewed as a "typical Republican" who would continue or expand President Bush's policies, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News Poll. Polls taken after the Republican National Convention suggested that McCain had enjoyed a surge of support - particularly among white women after his selection of Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska as his running mate - but the latest poll indicates "the Palin effect" was, at least so far, a limited burst of interest.
The contest appears to be roughly where it was before the two conventions and before the vice presidential selections: Obama has the support of 48 percent of registered voters, compared with 43 percent for McCain, a difference within the poll's margin of sampling error, and statistically unchanged from the tally in the last New York Times/CBS News Poll in mid-August.
The poll showed that McCain had some enduring strengths, including a substantial advantage over Obama as a potential commander in chief. And it found that for the first time, 50 percent of those surveyed in the Times/CBS News poll said they considered the troop buildup in Iraq, a policy that McCain championed from the start, has made things better there.
The poll also underlined the extent to which McCain's convention, and his selection of Palin, had excited Republican base voters about his candidacy, which is no small thing in a contest that continues to be so tight: 47 percent of McCain's supporters described themselves as enthused about the Republican Party's presidential ticket, almost twice what it was before the conventions.
But the Times/CBS News poll suggested that Palin's selection has, to date, helped McCain only among Republican base voters; there was no evidence of significantly increased support for him among female voters in general. White women are evenly divided between McCain and Obama; before the conventions, McCain led Obama among white women, 44 percent to 37 percent.
By contrast, at this point in the 2004 campaign, President Bush was leading Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, the Democratic challenger, by 56 percent to 37 percent among white women.
The latest Times/CBS News nationwide telephone poll was taken Friday through Tuesday with 1,133 adults, including 1,004 registered voters. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 3 percentage points for all respondents and for registered voters.