WASHINGTON (AFP) — As Barack Obama prepares to rejoin the fray of the White House campaign, the Democratic hopeful can take heart from holding his own in the polls despite sequestering himself in Hawaii for the past week.
But with Obama set to resume battle with Republican rival John McCain this weekend following his family break, he cannot be entirely comforted by poll findings that suggest he has yet to seal the deal with US voters.
When he left for vacation in his birth state a week ago, ahead of the convention season, the Illinois senator had a three-point edge over McCain in the Gallup Daily tracking poll.
By Thursday, as Obama packed his bags to fly back to the US mainland, his Gallup lead was still three points -- 46 percent to 43.
The moving average failed to budge despite a rhetorical onslaught by McCain on the crisis in Georgia, as the Republican's campaign scented an opportunity to hammer Obama on his perceived weak spot of foreign policy.
"I would attribute this to the amount of coverage of the Olympics, and the fact that foreign affairs generally isn't of much interest to Americans except under very unusual circumstances like the war in Iraq," pollster John Zogby said.
"So it just isn't registering. And if Obama can frame the election about the economy, then he should do OK," he told AFP. "He has a built-in advantage, but the deal just isn't closed."
One poll by Rasmussen said 59 percent of Americans regard Russia's actions in Georgia as a threat to US national security. But only 31 percent believed the United States should take any diplomatic action against Russia.
Obama does best on readings of which candidate is preferred by voters to tackle what is their overriding priority these days -- the economy.
In Pennsylvania, one of the swing states hit hardest by industrial decline, Obama has built up an eight-point lead of 44 percent to 36, according to the Center for Opinion Research at the Franklin and Marshall College.
But over half of respondents, 51 percent, said they would be concerned if Obama were elected president. Overall, 39 percent of respondents said they were worried about Obama's lack of experience, or knowledge, or ability.
"He's on third base, but so far he can't seem to find a way to get home," poll director Terry Madonna told the Philadelphia Daily News, which co-sponsored the survey released Wednesday.
"Look at the underlying trends. The economy is a huge issue. (President George W.) Bush's ratings are terrible," he said.
"But too many voters are concerned about Obama's experience, and don't yet have enough confidence in his ability to lead."
The Pennsylvania poll mirrored national findings that suggest the electorate is still not sold on Obama's readiness to lead even though this should be a banner year for the Democrats.
A Pew Research Center survey released Wednesday said Obama trounced McCain as the candidate viewed as having new ideas -- 69 percent to 17.
But asked which the candidate "would use good judgement in a crisis," 51 percent plumped for the Republican compared to 36 percent for his Democratic opponent.
The clutch of polls came as Obama readies to announce his choice of vice presidential nominee in advance of the August 25-28 Democratic convention, an all-important decision that has likely intruded on his holiday thinking.
One potential contender who doesn't appear to be in the mix is Hillary Clinton, despite poll numbers pointing to a residual mistrust of the new Democratic champion by supporters of his defeated primary rival.
The Clinton question weighed on Obama's vacation as the two camps announced Thursday a deal to submit her name to a symbolic vote by delegates to the Denver convention, where he will be formally crowned the White House nominee.
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