Obama's image has been sturdy even as voters' views of the overall campaign have tumbled since September. The portion of people saying the contest excites them has sunk to 32 percent while those calling it frustrating have grown to 41 percent - and in both cases, six in 10 of those whose feelings have worsened are McCain backers.
Negative campaigning and a month of intense public focus on collapsing global economic and financial markets have not been kind to McCain. The new AP-Yahoo News poll of likely voters, conducted this month by Knowledge Networks, shows more people viewing him favorably than unfavorably by just 5 percentage points, down from a 21-point difference in mid-September.
During the same period, Obama went the other way, increasing a 5 percentage-point net favorable rating to 15 points. Now, Obama is seen favorably by 57 percent and McCain by 52 percent - a close margin that masks the opposite direction the two rivals' ratings are heading.
"He kind of scared me," Leesa Zick, 48, an undecided Republican from Edwardsville, Ill., said of McCain's abrupt and short-lived suspension of his campaign last month during Capitol Hill talks on a financial rescue package. "We need a president who can deal with multiple tasks. It seemed like it overwhelmed him."