Linda Chavez

The professional odds-makers favor Barack Obama two-to-one to win the election. It's no wonder. Americans overwhelmingly believe the country is on the wrong track. They can't stand the current Republican occupant of the White House. The economy is weak and shows little sign of getting significantly stronger before the election. The country is fighting an unpopular war. And Obama, as he reminds us every time he opens his mouth, is all about "change."

So why hasn't Obama closed the deal? Most national polls show Obama ahead -- but by margins so thin it can hardly give comfort to the putative front-runner. The latest NBC/Wall Street Journal poll of registered voters puts Obama up only six points overall, while the more reliable polls of likely voters -- the Rasmussen tracking poll and the ABC/Washington Post poll -- put it at a statistical tie within the margin of error. And Obama is losing his advantage in key battleground states.

A new Quinnipiac poll of likely voters for the Washington Post and Wall Street Journal found Obama losing eight points over his previous poll numbers a month earlier in Minnesota, dropping five points in Colorado and two points in both Michigan and Wisconsin. McCain has pulled ahead of Obama in Colorado, is within the margin of error in Minnesota, and is in striking distance in Michigan. Of the four key states, only in Wisconsin, where Obama's numbers went down slightly but McCain's didn't go up, is Obama comfortably ahead of McCain by 11 points.

Perhaps most surprising is that Obama has been getting nonstop media attention over the past week with his high-profile visits to the Middle East and Europe. No presidential candidate of either party has been treated to such fawning coverage in the past, with network anchors accompanying them on their overseas trips and cameras everywhere to capture the candidate in formal and informal settings. An amnesiac tuning in might be forgiven for assuming the election had already taken place as he watched Obama sitting with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who seemed to all but endorse Obama's plan for removing American troops within 16 months (before the Iraqi leader decided to hedge his bets a bit by denying he'd said any such thing).

And then there were the pictures of Obama addressing throngs of more than 100,000 adoring Germans -- who, judging from the applause differentials when he mentioned his parents' disparate backgrounds, were far more enthusiastic about Obama's African than his American heritage.

Linda Chavez

Linda Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and author of Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics .

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