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Analysis: McCain, Obama polar opposites

Liz Sidoti

Obama has a record of liberal votes in the Senate. He opposed extending Bush’s tax cuts on investments, a free trade agreement with Central America, drilling in the Arctic wildlife refuge, extending federal wiretap provisions and the confirmation of Bush’s two Supreme Court nominees. Obama also opposes privatizing Social Security and supports abortion rights. He was against the Iraq war from the start and has made his calls for a pullout a bedrock of his presidential campaign.

Personal backgrounds and physical attributes, too, are a study in contrasts.

With a white mane and a posture that reflects his military upbringing, McCain is a Vietnam prisoner of war and Navy veteran who has served in Congress since his 1982 election to the House. He has spent some two decades in the Senate honing his image as an independent thinker who works across party lines and fights for reform. Now, he is marketing himself as the candidate with the experience and knowledge to make the best judgments to fix the country’s ills.

Obama, the lanky son of a Kenyan father and a Kansan mother, was reared in Indonesia and Hawaii. He’s a Harvard University graduate and former Chicago activist who began his political career a dozen years ago in the Illinois legislature. He’s been in the Senate just 3-1/2 years, quickly emerging as the Democratic Party’s rising star. He beat Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton by campaigning on a promise of change that rejects what he calls the partisan politics of division.

At this point, Obama appears to have a tougher barrier to break through on race than McCain does on age.

An AP-Yahoo News study comparing November figures to April figures found that McCain has won over many people initially worried about age, while Obama has made little headway so far among people who are most uncomfortable about race.

Roughly 13 percent of those who said in November they would be very uncomfortable voting for a black candidate now say they would vote for Obama, while 51 percent of them would vote for McCain. And 31 percent of those who said they were very uncomfortable with the idea of voting for someone over age 70 would now vote for McCain, while 40 percent would vote for Obama.

And, for now at least, it’s unclear whether experience or change matters more to voters.

The same study found that people who favor a Washington outsider who will change the way things are done split about evenly between McCain and Obama, while those who favor someone with Washington experience slightly favor McCain.

However, those who are optimistic that things actually can be changed in Washington favor Obama over McCain by a large margin, 43 percent to 31 percent. Those who are pessimistic about whether Washington can change favor McCain over Obama by an even wider margin, 43 percent to 23 percent.

Each candidate has five months to make his case.

Liz Sidoti covers the presidential campaign and has covered national politics since 2003.

(Associated Press)

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