For any Democrats are feeling gleeful about the prospect of taking back the White House, here is some cold water to pour on yourself:
WASHINGTON — After a sometimes bitter primary campaign, presumptive Republican nominee John McCain now presents a stiff challenge to either of his potential Democratic opponents in the general election, a new Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll has found.
The findings underscore the difficulties ahead for Democrats as they hope to retake the White House during a time of war, with voters giving McCain far higher marks when it comes to experience, fighting terrorism and dealing with the situation in Iraq.
Both Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton have made ending the war a centerpiece of their campaigns. But in hypothetical matchups against either Democratic senator, about half of voters polled said McCain, a Vietnam veteran, was best able to deal with the war. Just over a third of voters polled favored the Democratic candidates on that issue.
Overall, McCain would beat Clinton 46% to 40% and Obama 44% to 42%. His lead over Obama is within the poll’s three-point margin of error.
The Arizona senator also scored higher marks than Clinton or Obama for experience and strength. On the issue of “honesty and integrity,” he beat Clinton and was tied by Obama. McCain is viewed favorably by 61% of all registered voters, including a plurality of Democrats.
And the survey showed McCain’s advantages extend even to some domestic issues. On the economy, a subject that McCain has joked about his own lack of expertise, voters picked him over Democratic front-runner Obama as best able to lead by an 8-point margin — 42% to 34%
The numbers on specific issues probably don’t mean much, since few Americans have any idea what McCain’s economic policy is (does he even have one?), so his advantage there may just mean something like, “McCain seems like a good guy, and those Democrats seem to be attacking each other’s economic plans a lot, so I’ll go with McCain on that issue.”