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Obama inches ahead in tight race

The economy, plus questions among some conservatives about Sarah Palin, appear to be helping the Democrats.

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Barack Obama has picked up steam.

Over the past two weeks he's seen a small but steady rise in the polls. Immediately after the Republican Convention, the Illinois senator trailed his rival John McCain by three points in the various daily tracking polls. Senator Obama is now up by as many as six or seven points.

Pollsters say that's in part because the vital independent voters are now shifting his way.

"There are still a substantial number of independents that are undecided, principally independent women," says pollster John Zogby. "But as a group, they've begun to swing over to Obama, but not in large enough numbers yet to close the deal."

Pundits point to a variety of reasons for the shift in the dynamics of the presidential race. First is the steady stream of bad economic news. Polls consistently show that voters think Democrats are better at handling the economy.

Then there's the way Senator McCain reacted to the crisis. Initially calling the fundamentals of the economy strong, he then decided the crisis was so bad he needed to suspend his campaign, even calling for a postponement of the first presidential debate on Friday.

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