The Washington Post has a poll out that shows Clinton and Obama as virtually tied. The graphic for the poll results can be seen here. What's interesting is that while Democrats seem to prefer Clinton on the issues of health care, the economy, and the war in Iraq, Obama matches up better against McCain, who appears to be the likely GOP nominee, than Clinton. Clinton loses to McCain by 49% to 46% while Obama beats McCain by the same margin.
Here are some reasons why we think that Obama does better in the poll against McCain than Clinton:
1. He matches up better with McCain on age;
2. He matches up better with McCain on being able to bring change to Washington; and
3. He matches up better with McCain on the war in Iraq.
McCain will be the oldest person to take office as president if he is sworn in on January 20, 2009. Even better than Kennedy against Nixon in 1960, Obama is a clear difference with McCain on the age issue. Although Kennedy was appreciably younger than Eisnhower, he was very close in age to Nixon. Further, Obama was born on the tail end of the baby boom and, to the extent that there is "boomer fatigue", his candidacy would benefit from that fatigue.
Both Clinton and Obama, by virtue of being female and African-American, are personifications of change. We give the benefit to Obama on that score, however, because, unlike Clinton, he has not been in D.C. politics since 1992. If there is uneasiness at the prospect of Bush-Clinton-Bush-Clinton, Obama benefits from that uneasiness.
Finally, on the war, Obama was opposed to the war from the start and can probably use McCain's recent comment about not caring if the U.S. is in Iraq for another 100 years more effectively than Clinton. Her trying to have it both ways on the war reminds us of Kerry's infamous line that he was voted against funding for the Iraq War before he voted for it.
Clinton would match up better with McCain on experience and on knowledge of the issues. Clinton would also be a clear contrast with McCain on gender, but that is matched by Obama being a clear contrast with McCain on race. The one big question that no one really knows until we get there is whether Obama can get enough of the white vote, particulary the white male vote, to be competitive with McCain.
If you believe, as we do, that drawing a clear contrast with your opponent is important in political campaigns, then Obama is a better choice.