White House race a cliffhanger as home stretch looms

WASHINGTON, September 7, 2008 (AFP) – The historic, twisting, cliffhanger White House race is swinging into an eight-week sprint to the finish, with John McCain and Barack Obama locked up in the polls and bare knuckle-rhetoric flying.

Whatever happens, the face of American politics is about to be remade.

Democrat Obama, 47, would be the first black US president, Republican McCain, 72, the oldest-ever inaugurated for a first term and his running mate Sarah Palin, 44, the first woman vice president.

McCain’s choice of Palin transformed the mood of the race by sending an electric charge through demoralized Republican conservatives who have proven time and again their power to elect presidents.

“It’s a different election,” said Buddy Howell, a specialist in presidential rhetoric at Denison University, surveying the shaken up political scene after two raucous party conventions.

With the full impact of last week’s Republican jamboree not yet felt, a Gallup tracking poll has Obama up by two points and Rasmussen has him ahead 46 to 45 percent, confirming McCain squelched his rival’s post-convention surge.

If McCain’s shock pick of Palin was inspired it remains high risk. The Alaska governor has zero national expe