McCain’s biggest hurdle

MCCAIN’S BIGGEST HURDLE…. The new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll is pretty consistent with most of the recent data we’ve seen. But there’s one surprise.

With two weeks to go until Election Day, Obama now leads his Republican rival by 10 points among registered voters, 52 to 42 percent, up from 49 to 43 percent two weeks ago.

Obama’s current lead is also fueled by his strength among independent voters (topping McCain 49 to 37 percent), suburban voters (53 to 41), Catholics (50 to 44) and white women (49 to 45). […]

In the survey, Obama also holds commanding leads on the issues — especially economic ones. He has a 39-point advantage over McCain in handling health care (59 to 20 percent), a 21-point edge on improving the economy (49 to 28), a 21-point lead on the mortgage and housing crisis (45 to 24), a 17-point edge on dealing with the Wall Street crisis (42 to 25), a 14-point lead on taxes (48 to 34) and a 12-point advantage on energy and the cost of gas (44 to 32).

The result that stands out, though, is McCain’s biggest problem. I’d long assumed McCain would be burdened by his close association with an unpopular president, and his affiliation with a tarnished Republican brand. But that’s not it — voters’ biggest concern about McCain is his running mate.

A clear majority (55%) believe she’s not qualified, and more voters have a negative impression of her than a positive one (47% to 38%). NBC reported, “Now, Palin’s qualifications to be president rank as voters’ top concern about McCain’s candidacy — ahead of continuing President Bush’s policies, enacting economic policies that only benefit the rich and keeping too high of a troop presence in Iraq.”

Similarly, the Pew Research Center released a new poll yesterday, showing Obama leading McCain nationally by 14 points, 52% to 38%. When it came to favorability, both Obama and Biden have seen their numbers climb steadily; McCain’s numbers have fallen quickly; and Palin is the only one of the four whose unfavorable number is higher than her favorable number.

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Steve Benen

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.