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McCain vs. Obama: A double-digit lead

The Wall Street Journal on the new NBC/WSJ poll: "Sen. Barack Obama has opened up a double-digit lead in the presidential race, with a growing number of voters saying they're now comfortable with the Democratic nominee's values, background and ability to serve as commander in chief." 

Here's our write-up of the poll: "Obama's current lead is also fueled by his strength among independent voters (topping McCain 49 to 37 percent), suburban voters (53 to 41), Catholics (50 to 44) and white women (49 to 45). In early September, after the Republican National Convention, McCain was ahead with independents and Catholics, and narrowly trailed Obama among suburban voters… [GOP pollster Neil] Newhouse adds, "Obama's beginning to meet a threshold of acceptance among voters."

That doesn't appear to be the case with McCain's running mate, Sarah Palin. Fifty-five percent of respondents say she's not qualified to serve as president if the need arises, up five points from the previous poll. In addition, for the first time, more voters have a negative opinion of her than a positive one. In the survey, 47 percent view her negatively, versus 38 percent who see her in a positive light."

Meanwhile, Obama leads 52%-38% in a Pew poll, up slightly from 50%-40% a week earlier.

McCain and Palin have been hitting Obama hard for wanting to give a tax cut to those too poor to owe income taxes. But NBC's Savannah Guthrie points out that McCain himself supported just such a tax-cutting approach earlier this year. The stimulus package overwhelmingly approved by Congress in February provided "tax rebates" -- even to those who did not owe income taxes. Individuals who earned at least $3,000 per year were eligible. McCain voted for the measure, revealing at least one instance in which the Arizona senator supported the practice he now decries on the trail.

Others, Guthrie adds, have pointed to the refundable tax credits at the heart of McCain's health-care proposal as another example of McCain supporting tax credit to those who don't pay income taxes. All families – regardless of income -- would be eligible for the tax credit to help defray health care costs.

The Boston Globe's Kranish gets into the tax details. "McCain is correct when he says that 40 percent of Americans pay no income taxes, analysts said. But the missing nuance is that many Americans who don't pay income taxes still pay taxes for Social Security and Medicare… At least 27 million American owe no income tax but do pay the 7.65 percent payroll tax, with another 7.65 percent paid by employers. In addition, more than half of all workers pay more in payroll taxes than in income taxes, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center."
 
"William Beach, director of the conservative Heritage Foundation's Center for Data Analysis, said that he wouldn't characterize Obama's tax plan as 'socialist,' calling it a 'redistribution of income.' But he noted that neither candidate wants to end the progressive tax system under which wealthier people have higher tax rates." 
 
"McCain is pouncing on Barack Obama's call for shifting more wealth from richer Americans to poorer ones, likening it to socialism," AP's Babington writes. "His remarks win applause at campaign events. But they ignore the nation's long tradition of redistributing huge amounts of wealth through tax-and-spending policies. Placing a heavier burden on the wealthy has been a cornerstone of the federal income tax since its inception in 1913. Under its 'progressive' formula, in which the wealthy pay higher tax rates, the richest 5 percent of Americans now pay well over half of all federal income taxes."