A new poll suggests that Barack Obama's much-publicized overseas tour has not paid immediate dividends in Americans' perceptions of whether he is ready to be commander in chief and the nation's chief diplomat.
The Gallup report out this morning shows that those who believe that Obama can handle the responsibilities of commander in chief dropped from 55 percent last month to 52 percent now. It also found that those who believe that Obama would do a good job dealing with terrorism dropped from 49 percent to 45 percent and those who think he would do a good job on the Iraq war dropped from 51 percent to 48 percent.
Also, Democrat Obama still trails Republican John McCain substantially on the commander in chief and terrorism questions. For McCain, who has more military and foreign policy experience, 76 percent said he is ready to be commander in chief and 67 percent said he would do a good job on terrorism.
Obama does fare better on who would handle the Iraq war and on diplomacy questions.
"Clearly, Obama still has some work to do to convince Americans he can handle some of the international responsibilities of the presidency," the report says. "While he already is viewed as being better than McCain at handling 'relations with other countries,' McCain has wide advantages over Obama in perceptions that he would be able to handle the job of commander in chief and to do a good job of handling the terrorism issue.
"Even though fewer Americans say Obama is able to handle the role of commander in chief than say this about McCain, it is important to note that a majority of Americans think the Illinois senator is up to the task. In some ways, it may not be as important for Obama to close this perceptual gap with McCain as it is to keep his own percentage above the majority level. That may especially be true in an election year when Americans rate domestic issues like the economy and energy as the top issues that will affect their vote. Thus, Obama could in theory win the election on the basis of his perceived strengths on domestic issues, so long as Americans don't disqualify him for perceived weaknesses on military and defense issues."
The report is based on results from a July 25-27 USA Today/Gallup poll, conducted just as Obama was wrapping up his trip abroad, and the results of the same poll done June 15-19.
About Political Intelligence
Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.