FAVORABILITY…. Horse-race polls are obviously interesting right now, but the latest New York Times/CBS News poll asked voters about their impressions of the candidates, and the results have to be encouraging to Democrats. Indeed, Republican efforts to smear Obama haven’t done much — except undermine the public’s regard for McCain.

As voters have gotten to know Senator Barack Obama, they have warmed up to him, with more than half, 53 percent, now saying they have a favorable impression of him and 33 percent saying they have an unfavorable view. But as voters have gotten to know Senator John McCain, they have not warmed, with only 36 percent of voters saying they view him favorably while 45 percent view him unfavorably.

Even voters who are planning to vote for Mr. McCain say their enthusiasm has waned. In New York Times and CBS News polls conducted with the same respondents before the first presidential debate and again after the last debate, Mr. McCain made no progress in appealing to voters on a personal level, and he and his running mate, Gov. Sarah Palin, had alienated some voters.

To put this in context, Obama’s favorability numbers, which have increased 10 points over the last month, are now “the highest for a presidential candidate running for a first term in the last 28 years of Times/CBS polls.”

On the other side of the aisle, McCain’s unfavorable rating has grown 10 points since September, to 45%, while Sarah Palin’s negatives are up 12 points, to 41%.

Palin’s negative rating “is the highest for a vice-presidential candidate as measured by The Times and CBS News” — even worse than Dan Quayle’s.

The Times report added that many of those who’ve lost regard for McCain cited his negative campaigning, which is bolstered by a new CNN poll showing Americans unimpressed with McCain’s relentlessly negative attacks.

I guess this means Obama’s winning the “have a beer with” question?

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.