This is a rush transcript from "The Journal Editorial Report," August 16, 2008.
PAUL GIGOT, HOST: Welcome to "The Journal Editorial Report." I'm Gigot.
With just over a week to go before the start of the presidential nominating conventions a new poll shows Barack Obama's lead over John McCain disappearing. According to the Pew Research Center for people and the press, Obama now leads McCain 46 percent to 43 percent among registered voters, and that's down from the eight-point lead the Illinois senator enjoyed in June. Here with some thoughts on what might account for the shift is Democratic pollster, Doug Schoen who joins me from Tucson, Arizona.
Doug Schoen, welcome. Good to have you here.
DOUG SCHOEN, DEMOCRATIC POLLSTER: Thank you for having me, Paul.
GIGOT: I'm a little bit puzzled. This should be a Democratic year. The Republican Party is down in the polls. The economy is lousy. And yet, Obama's lead does seem to have disappeared. What is happening?
SCHOEN: I think three things, Paul. First, there remain doubts about Barack Obama. I don't think he's answered the questions the American people have about his leadership abilities. I think there are also questions in a time of crisis, such as the one we're facing now, whether he has the right skill set and experience to lead the country forward. And there are still doubts whether the democratic party can get together and fully unify with the supports of Hillary Clinton. And until the party is put back together, I don't think Barack Obama will be in a position to maximize his appeal.
GIGOT: Are you saying Barack Obama might have made a mistake, then, in allowing Senator Clinton a roll call vote at the convention? Does it maybe make him look weak and not standing up as the new leader of the party?
SCHOEN: I think time will tell. The proof is in the pudding so to speak. We'll have to see how the process plays out. But I think it's fair to say if Barack Obama had a choice, he wouldn’t have a roll call and Hillary Clinton wouldn't get the degree of attention she's going to get at this convention for her candidacy.
GIGOT: Why do you think he went along with it - to avoid a raucous convention or avoid a public disagreement?
SCHOEN: I think he feels he needs the Clintons campaigning for him. I think she's promised and the President Bill Clinton has promised that they'll campaign for Barack Obama. This is a political deal. This is an accommodation. I think he felt this was the best of the choices available to him.
GIGOT: OK. Now let's talk about Obama's strategy. His core strategy theme, if you will, seems to be to link John McCain to George Bush who is unpopular, down in the polls. But John McCain isn't George Bush. And is there something maybe flawed with that strategy, running against somebody who — somebody's record who is not on the ballot?
SCHOEN: Well, I think, Paul, that what Obama has yet to do is to compellingly make the case to the American people that McCain equals Bush. I've told people I think that Obama has done a less good job linking Bush to McCain than McCain has done linking Obama to Britney Spears and Paris Hilton. So I don't think the argument for change from Barack Obama has been as compelling as it might be. And I think you're absolutely right. John McCain has made the case that the Straight Talk Express is back and that he's not a third term for George Bush.
GIGOT: I guess my question is what if that whole premise is faulting, that the American public looks at McCain and says he's not Bush. We know it. So stop telling us that he is Bush. He did oppose Bush on how he is prosecuting the war in Iraq. He does disagree with President Bush on things like the environment. Could the whole — that whole premise of the campaign be faulty?
SCHOEN: Well, I don't think it's faulty, Paul. I just don't think it's been particularly well articulated. I think on the economy, if you look at the $490 billion deficit, 5.7 percent unemployment, and McCain's support for the tax cuts, there's an argument that Obama could make and really hasn't made compellingly. The McCain campaign has been somewhat more focused than the Obama campaign. And I don't think the McCain campaign has been effective. I think Barack has been scattered with his message and the Pew poll shows what you suggested.
GIGOT: McCain is trying to make the argument that Obama is somebody who is not experienced enough to be president and not up to the job. Is that McCain's best argument against the senator? And what advice would you give the senator how to respond?
SCHOEN: First, I think that's 50 percent of the argument against Barack Obama. That he's not experienced. Second, I think there's a fiscal argument against Barack Obama that you've made on the editorial page of the "Journal" quite compellingly; frankly, better than McCain has made, that Barack Obama is going to raise taxes, potentially put America into a recession. So far, McCain hasn't really made an argument against Obama's economic policies. But if he's able to do that and link that to experience in a way that I call ‘Barack Obama inexperience America can't afford,’ I think John McCain has a compelling argument and a real chance to win the election.
GIGOT: All right. Doug Schoen, we'll be watching. Thank you for being here.
SCHOEN: Thank you. Appreciate it.
GIGOT: More on the tightening presidential race when we come back, including a look at how the crisis in Georgia is playing out for each of the candidates.