Donald Lambro

"I think voters are aware of the candidates' life stories and exposure to the crises, including McCain's career as a naval officer in time of war, and his work over many years in foreign-affairs issues that came before Congress, and have concluded that is better preparation to be a crisis manager than being a state senator in Illinois," he said.

But Obama's weakness runs deeper than this. Several weeks ago, he was running quite well in a number of Republican battleground states that Democrats have targeted for takeover this year. This week, McCain was either tied or had the edge in Colorado, Ohio, Virginia, Florida, Missouri and Nevada.

In Colorado, a state that has been trending Democratic, McCain has edged ahead by 3 points, according to a Rocky Mountain News poll. In Ohio, an economic basket case that Democrats swept in 2006, the Real Clear Politics Web site showed McCain with a slight edge in the pivotal state.

Obama is making an all-out effort to tip Virginia into the Democrats' electoral column for the first time since 1964. Democrats are expected to pick up their second Senate seat there in November. But Rasmussen and internal GOP polls have McCain edging slightly ahead.

In Florida, McCain has lost some ground, but is still clinging to a nearly 2-point lead. In Missouri, he leads Obama by 2.3 points. In Nevada, he is up by 3 points.

In Michigan, a must-win state for Democrats where the economy is in a full-scale depression, Obama should be flattening McCain. Instead, only a couple of points separate the two candidates, and the McCain campaign has thrown increased resources into the race there.

"A lot of it is because Obama is not well-known among undecideds and also has low favorable numbers," says Bernie Porn, head of the Lansing, Mich-based EPIC/MRA polling group. "The undecideds could break for McCain," he told me.

With the automotive industry treading water, voters have turned sharply in favor of McCain's push for offshore oil drilling, and a near majority even favors drilling in the Great Lakes. That McCain and the Republicans have made a Democratic state like Michigan competitive is astounding. A win there would be a stunning rebuke of Obama's mercurial candidacy.

Still in the throes of Obamamania, the national news media has yet to come to grips with the electorate's growing lack of confidence in a young celebrity who, until a few years ago, was just another state lawmaker, hardly qualified to be commander in chief.

Hillary Clinton's haunting primary-debate question that asked whether he was ready to handle that 3 a.m. phone call in a national crisis is being echoed in a John McCain campaign ad that asks, "Is he ready to lead?"

Voters are now asking themselves the same question.


Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.