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John McCain confronts a yawning 'passion gap'

June 24, 2008 |  2:19 pm

One of the results that leaps out of the new L.A. Times/Bloomberg poll that gives Barack Obama a double-digit lead over John McCain is the "passion gap."

That would be the astounding difference in enthusiasm levels for the two presidential candidates (Times Washington bureau chief Doyle McManus writes here about this and other aspects of the poll).

Among Obama supporters, 81% say they are either "very" or "somewhat" enthusiastic about his candidacy (with 47% putting themselves in the "very" category).

Among McCain supporters, by contrast, only 45% characterize themselves as enthused by his candidacy (and just 13% of them are in the "very" camp). Perhaps more amazingly, a majority of the registered voters who plan to vote for McCain -- 51% -- describe themselves as "not too enthusiastic" or "not enthusiastic at all" about doing so.

These figures underscore one of the challenges facing McCain: With so many of his own supporters lukewarm about him, how can he hope to derail an opponent whose backers are much more fired up about their choice?

At this point in McCain's political career -- with his persona already deeply etched in the public consciousness -- chances are slim that he'll be transformed into a candidate who electrifies his partisans.

So, chances are much of his campaign's own efforts will be targeted at trying to cool the ardor for the new kid on the block. And McCain will be hoping that Obama contributes to this as well, through miscues and missed opportunities.

Along these lines, McCain can take heart from how voters responded when asked in the new poll which candidate had the "right experience" to be president -- he was named by 47%, Obama by 27%.

-- Don Frederick

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