A series of SurveyUSA polls across the Upper Midwest finds registered voters more confident John McCain can better handle foreign policy issues and immigration, while Barack Obama has the edge on health care. In a surprising turn, Obama ends up with a draw against McCain on economic issues.
The polls, conducted in Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin from August 15-17, bolster the conventional wisdom that McCain’s forte is foreign policy. In all three states, registered voters believe the Arizona Senator would do a better job handling the war in Iraq and fighting terrorism.
Despite opposition to the war in Iraq across the Upper Midwest in recent years, McCain’s support for the war – and his steadfast support for the troop surge in 2007 – does not seem to have damaged the GOP nominee. McCain is viewed as better equipped to handle the war in Iowa (49 to 42 percent), Minnesota (46 to 43 percent), and Wisconsin (50 to 41 percent). This is not a good sign for Obama, whose centerpiece foreign policy argument is that he has better judgment than McCain (Obama was opposed to the war back in 2003).
McCain – and Republican candidates generally – have held an advantage over Democrats when it comes to handling the war on terrorism, and the SurveyUSA poll supports that trend. McCain holds a double-digit advantage over Obama in all three states on the terrorism issue: 53 to 36 percent in Iowa, 50 to 36 percent in Minnesota, and 53 to 35 percent in Wisconsin.
On the domestic front, although McCain as recent as early 2007 shared similar views on immigration policy to Obama, the Arizona Senator now holds a clear edge on the issue (McCain has since adopted a more hard-line policy emphasizing border enforcement first, consonant with his Party and Americans overall). McCain holds a double-digit advantage on immigration in Wisconsin (49 to 36 percent), and a somewhat smaller lead on the issue in Iowa (45 to 38 percent) and Minnesota (44 to 37 percent).
To no surprise, Barack Obama holds a very large advantage on the issue of handling health care. Health care was a centerpiece to Obama’s primary campaign victory, and has been an issue Democrats have long held the upper hand against the GOP. McCain has also been taken to task by pundits for his lack of a vision on domestic policy issues. Obama holds a double-digit lead over McCain on health care in Iowa (51 to 33 percent), Minnesota (52 to 37 percent) and Wisconsin (48 to 38 percent).
But when it comes to economic issues, Obama has not been able to leverage the unease Upper Midwesterns are feeling with high gas prices and difficulties with the home mortgage sector under the current Republican administration. Obama holds only a slight advantage over McCain on the economy in Iowa (47 to 43 percent) and Minnesota (46 to 44 percent), with McCain slightly on top in Wisconsin (45 to 43 percent). Pundits have criticized Obama for not mapping out enough specifics in his economic plan.
The SurveyUSA polls confirm that the Upper Midwest is the battleground for the 2008 presidential campaign.