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Obama inches ahead in tight race

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His campaign had hoped that would reinforce his stance as a leader that put the country first. But to many people it instead reinforced the notion that McCain could be impulsive and erratic.

There's also the Sarah Palin factor.

She continues to energize the Republican base. But in her recent interview on CBS, the Alaska governor did not appear to have a grasp of a variety of issues.

That's prompted some women conservative columnists, who once supported her, to call for her to step down for the good of the party.

Governor Palin's favorability ratings among independents are also going down as her unfavorable ratings are on the rise.

"I'm not sure it's gotten to the point where she's hurting [McCain,] but she's clearly not helping," says political analyst Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.

Friday night's debate in Oxford, Miss., which did happen despite McCain's calls to have it postponed, has also helped Obama.

A number of postdebate polls show that most viewers thought the Illinois senator did a "better job."

A USA Today/Gallup poll released Sunday also found that by a 52 percent to 35 percent margin, viewers thought Obama offered better proposals to solve the country's problems.

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