This is from a recent poll taken by the AP and Washington Post:
Q: We're interested in how some different things might have influenced your opinion of Barack Obama. Has [item] made your opinion of Obama more favorable, less favorable, or has it not made much difference?
% saying each item has made their
opinion of Barack Obama "less favorable"
All Dem Ind Rep
Remarks on "bitter" small-towners 42 31 41 57
Seen/heard about Jeremiah Wright 41 31 40 57
Answers about flag pin 29 23 27 39
Seen/heard about Michelle Obama 19 14 19 28
How he has conducted his campaign 17 14 11 27
Foreign-sounding name 16 13 14 22
Speech about race in America 14 9 15 23
Time spent in Indonesia 13 10 11 21
Harvard-law education 6 5 4 8
All of this adds up to a substantial increase in his "negatives" over the last several weeks. Obviously independent voters are going to be a very important group of voters in this year's election. The common myth of independent voters is that they are somehow more interested in issues than party identification. That is wrong. They are independents because they don't care as much about politics as partisan voters. They don't follow the news about politics as much as more partisan voters. They are less knowledgeable than partisan voters. Consequently, they are more easily influenced by news coverage over stories like Rev. Wright and flag pins and have less "positive" information to balance out "negative" information.
Every presidential campaign that Republicans have won since 1968 has been won on issues of social populism. They make voters believe that the Democratic candidate is not one of them and that they are one of them. Successful Democratic candidates, Carter in 1976, and Clinton in 1992 and 1996, have been able to raise above this tactic.
Since Republicans really got nothing else to talk about in this campaign, and since our two front runners are different by either gender or race, the 2008 presidential campaign was always going to see another Republican effort to "swift-boat" the Democratic nominee. The problem that Obama has is that his remarks about "bitter" small town voters and Rev. Wright's remarks about America and race make their task much easier.