오는 11월 4일 실시되는 미국 대통령 선거가 100일도 채 안남았습니다. 미국의 많은 유권자들은 조지 부시 대통령의 업무수행을 지지하지 않으며 대체로 차기 대통령으로 민주당 후보가 당선되길 바라고 있는 것으로 여론조사 결과 나타났습니다. 그러나 민주당 대선 후보로 사실상 확정된 바락 오바마 상원의원은 공화당의 존 맥케인 후보에 비해 그다지 큰 차이로 앞서지는 못하고 있는 것으로 드러났습니다. 이에 관한 자세한 소식입니다.

미국 대선을 3개월 앞두고 민주당의 바락 오바마 후보와 공화당의 존 맥케인 후보가 접전을 펼치고 있습니다.

워싱턴의 '미국기업연구소'의 여론 분석가인 카를린 보우만 (Karlyn Bowman)씨는 "올 여름에는 대선경쟁 구도가 매우 일관적이었다"고 말했습니다. 보우만씨는 "지난 6월과 7월 조사기관인 갤럽의 일일 여론조사에서 오바마가 맥케인을 평균 3% 포인트 앞섰다"고 말했습니다.

그러나 많은 전문가들은 미국인들이 부시 행정부에 염증을 느끼고, 경제에 대해 더욱 우려하고 전반적으로 많은 현안들에 대한 민주당의 접근법을 선호하고 있는 점을 감안할 때, 3% 포인트는 작은 격차라고 말합니다.

미국 퀴니피악 대학의 여론 조사원인 피터 브라운 (Peter Brown)씨는 많은 유권자들이 맥케인과 오바마간 후보결정을 미루고 있는 데는 한가지 주요 원인이 있다고 말했습니다.

브라운씨는 "이번 선거는 오바마 상원의원에 대한 선거"라며 "오바마가 선두에 있지만 많은 유권자들은 오바마에게 표를 던져야할지 확신이 없다"고 말했습니다. 유권자들은 대통령으로 민주당 후보를 선출하기를 원하지만 바락 오바마를 원하는지 확실치 않다는 것입니다.

맥케인 진영은 오바마의 경험과 지도력에 대한 의구심을 제기하는데에 초점을 맞추고 있습니다. 맥케인은 유권자들에 대해 오바마를 그다지 긍정적으로 간주하지 않도록 하는데 애를 쓰고 있습니다.

반면, 오바마는 미국인들이 올 선거에서 변화를 원한다는 여론조사 결과를 의식한 듯, 맥케인을 부시 대통령의 정책을 그대로 이어나갈 사람으로 묘사하고 있습니다.

많은 전문가들은 2008 대선 경쟁이 지난 1980년의 지미 카터 대통령과 공화당의 로널드 레이건 후보간의 경쟁과 비슷한 양상을 띄기 시작했다고 말합니다.

분석가인 노먼 오른스타인씨에 따르면, 올해와 마찬가지로 '80년에도 유권자들은 당시 행정부에 대한 불만으로 변화를 추구했으나 레이건을 백악관으로 보내줘야할지 확신이 서지 않은 상황이었습니다.

오른스타인씨는 "사람들은 4년을 또 지미 카터 아래서 보내길 원하지 않으면서도 레이건이 미국 대통령으로서 갖추어야 할 능력을 충분히 갖고 있는지에 대해 자신할 수 없었다"고 말했습니다.

여론 분석가인 카를린 보우만 (Karlyn Bowman)씨는 2008 대선이 1980년 대선의 재판이 될 지는 이달 말과 9월초에 각각 열리는 민주당과 공화당 전당대회 이후에 알 수 있을 것이라고 말했습니다.

보우만씨는 "마지막으로 대선을 치렀던 지난 2000년, 미국 미시건 대학 여론조사에 참여한 유권자들 가운데 약 60%는 전당대회 기간 중에 또는 이후에 후보에 대한 마음을 결정한 것으로 답했다"고 말했습니다. 보우만씨는 "대선 후보 지지자들의 4분의 1은 마음을 바꿀 수 있다고 말하고 있다"며 계속 지켜봐야한다고 말했습니다.

전문가들은 오바마에게 있는 한가지 유리한 점은 올해는 공화당 보다 민주당 유권자들이 투표할 의지가 더 강하다는 점이라고 지적합니다. 

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With less than 100 days until the U.S. presidential election on November 4, public opinion polls show most Americans disapprove of the job President Bush is doing and would generally prefer a Democrat to succeed him in the White House next year. But the polls also show that the presumptive Democratic nominee, Senator Barack Obama, is only slightly ahead of his Republican opponent, Senator John McCain. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.

Three months before Election Day, the presidential race between Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain appears to be close.

"The structure of the race has been remarkably stable all summer," said Karlyn Bowman, who monitors U.S. public opinion at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington. "In Gallup's national daily tracking [poll] for June and July, Obama has averaged a three percentage point lead over John McCain."

But many experts say that three points seems a small lead given polls that show Americans are weary of the Bush administration, increasingly concerned about the economy and generally favor Democratic approaches on many issues.

Quinnipiac University pollster Peter Brown says there is one main reason why many voters seem to be holding off in deciding between candidates McCain and Obama.

"Candidly, I think this election is about Senator Obama," he said. "And he has a threshold to cross in order to close the sale. He is ahead. We know that. A number of voters are not sure yet whether they want to vote for him. They do not necessarily want to vote against him. In fact, voters want to elect a Democrat. They are just not sure they want Barack Obama."

The McCain campaign is doing what it can to raise questions about Obama's experience and leadership capabilities. In effect, McCain is trying to define Obama for voters, and not in a positive way.

It is a tactic that has been effective in recent presidential elections. Democratic candidates Michael Dukakis in 1988 and John Kerry in 2004 were unable to overcome Republican depictions of them as so-called tax and spend liberals from Massachusetts.  

Senator McCain has stepped up his attacks on Senator Obama in recent days on a range of issues, from his readiness to be commander in chief to his stand on tax cuts and energy prices.

"Senator Obama says he is going to change Washington, but his solution is to simply make government bigger and raise your taxes to pay for it," he said. "We have been doing that for years, my friends, and it has not worked."

Polls show voters generally prefer Obama to handle the weakened U.S. economy, but place more trust in McCain to handle the war in Iraq and national security in general.

"The question of whether Obama is a suitable commander-in-chief is one which I think voters will continue to mull over the course of the campaign," said Michael Barone, a Washington-based political analyst and author. "He is clearly at a disadvantage to John McCain on this dimension at the moment."

For his part, Senator Obama is trying to depict Senator McCain as someone who would continue the policies of President Bush, mindful of public opinion surveys that strongly suggest Americans are looking for change this election year.

In recent speeches, Obama has become more forceful in rejecting McCain's attacks and a television ad that compares Obama's celebrity status with pop culture icons Britney Spears and Paris Hilton.

"They know their [Republican] ideas are used up, he said. "That is why they are spending all their time talking about me. And that is why they are spending all their time trying to convince you that I am a risky choice. But the real risk is doing the same thing."

Obama and his supporters had hoped his recent trip to the Middle East and Europe would bolster his credentials in foreign policy and national security issues.

But Quinnipiac pollster Peter Brown says that so far, there is little evidence to suggest that Obama got much of a public relations boost, or bounce, out of his trip.

Senator Obama had a good trip by all accounts to the Middle East and Europe," he said. "He met with leaders. They said nice things about him. He drew a huge crowd in Berlin. But he may have been making friends in Berlin, Germany, but he may not be doing as well in Berlin, New Hampshire.

To many experts, the 2008 race is starting to look like the election of 1980 between President Jimmy Carter and his Republican challenger Ronald Reagan.

Analyst Norman Ornstein says like this year, voters were in a sour mood in 1980 and looking for change, but unsure about putting Reagan in the White House.

"And I believe fundamentally that in 1980, the election was all about Ronald Reagan," he said. "People did not want another four years of Jimmy Carter. But they were not clear or comfortable for much of the way with whether Reagan got over the bar of acceptability to be commander in chief and president of the United States."

Could 2008 be a repeat of 1980? Public opinion analyst Karlyn Bowman says we should have a better idea after the major party political conventions in late August and early September.

"The last time we had an open contest, in 2000, around 60 percent of those surveyed by the University of Michigan said that they made up their minds at [during] the convention or after it," she said. "Of the candidate's supporters, one quarter still say that they could change their minds. So stay tuned."

Experts do seem to agree that Obama does have one advantage over McCain at the moment - Democrats seem much more energized to turn out and vote this year than Republicans.