WASHINGTON (AFP) — John McCain has grabbed the lead in a new opinion poll over rival Barack Obama, in the latest sign of accelerating momentum for the Republican as the key phase dawns in their White House battle.
McCain led Obama 47 percent to 46 percent in a nationwide matchup in the new George Washington University Battleground poll published on Wednesday. The Illinois Democrat had led the same poll by 49 percent to 47 percent in May.
The George Washington survey was the latest poll to show an erosion in Obama's poll numbers, following several weeks of withering attacks by McCain on his national security judgement and celebrity.
It also came days before Obama is expected to unveil his vice presidential pick ahead of the Democratic convention next week, to be followed by McCain's running mate selection and the Republican convention between September 1 and 4.
Other polls have also been showing a McCain spurt.
A Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll out Tuesday gave Obama a slim lead of 45 to 43 percent, within the survey's three point margin of error. In June he had led by 12 points, though other polls at the time had the race slightly closer.
A Quinnipiac University poll on Tuesday also showed Obama's national lead over McCain slipping -- he led 47 to 42 percent, down from a 50 to 41 percent lead nationally in the same poll a month ago.
The George Washington poll suggested that McCain's gains over the last two months were partly fueled by his aggressive demand for an expansion in offshore oil drilling as a way to lower high gasoline prices.
Forty percent of those asked said that McCain, who visited an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico on Tuesday, was the best bet to reduce oil and gas prices, compared to 37 percent for Obama.
In May, 50 percent of those polled thought that Obama could do a best job in lowering prices at the pump, compared to only 31 percent for McCain.
Obama initially opposed McCain's call for offshore drilling, which Democrats say would do little to mitigate high oil prices as extra oil supplies would not hit the market for around a decade.
But as polls show Americans favor more drilling by a large majority, Obama has softened his stand in recent weeks, saying he would agree to some more prospecting as part of a bid to pass a sweeping energy plan.
The George Washington University poll was conducted among 1,003 registered likely voters with a margin of error of plus or minus three percent.
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