In-depth coverage of the candidates and the issues, all leading up to the Aug. 5 primary and the Nov. 4 general election.
Washington Republican John McCain has taken a modest lead over Barack Obama entering the final seven weeks of their presidential contest, buoyed by decisive advantages among suburban and working-class whites and a huge edge in how people rate each candidate's experience, a poll showed Friday.
McCain has had some success parrying his Democratic opponent's efforts to tie him to the deeply unpopular President Bush, according to the AP-GfK Poll of likely voters. Half say they believe the Arizona senator would chart a different path from Bush, including a slight majority of independents, a pivotal group of voters.
The survey has plenty of positive signs for Obama as well. The Illinois senator is generally doing about as well with whites as Democrat John Kerry did in his losing but close 2004 race against Bush. Obama has an 18-percentage-point lead over McCain among voters who look more to a contender's values and views than experience, and a modest advantage in the number of supporters who say they will definitely vote for their candidate.
Even so, the survey - conducted after both parties staged their conventions and picked their vice presidential candidates - conforms with others that have shown the Republicans grabbing the momentum after a summer in which Obama had steadily maintained a slim lead. According to the AP-GfK Poll, McCain leads Obama 48 percent to 44 percent.
Underscoring how tight the race remains, several swing groups who traditionally help decide presidential races remain about evenly divided between the two tickets. These include independents, married women and Catholics.
Seven in 10 said Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin made the right decision in becoming McCain's running mate, despite the demands of a family whose five children include a pregnant, unmarried teenage daughter and an infant with Down syndrome.
Eighty percent say McCain, with nearly three decades in Congress, has the right experience to be president. Just 46 percent say Obama, now in his fourth year in the Senate, is experienced enough. Another 47 percent say Obama lacks the proper experience - an even worse reading than the 36 percent who had the same criticism about Palin, now in her second year as governor after serving as a small-town mayor in her state.