Thursday, December 21, 2006

Obama who? Senator still unknown to many voters

He's been on Oprah, Letterman, Leno, "Monday Night Football'' and "The View.'' He's written two best-selling books and made the cover of Time and Newsweek magazines.

He's Barack ... who?

Some 33 percent of Americans say they have never heard of Illinois' Sen. Barack Obama, a likely presidential candidate in 2008, according to a new Gallup poll. Another 14 percent said his name sounded familiar but they didn't know enough about him to have an opinion.

Compare that to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton: Only 5 percent of those polled said they had no opinion of her - a double-edged sword, though, with 42 percent saying they know her and don't like her.

Gallup pollster Jeffrey M. Jones said freshman candidates usually have low recognition numbers but he was surprised at the Obama data given the senator's high-profile "political rock star" tag.

There are both negatives and positives in Obama's recognition numbers this early in the game, said John S. Jackson of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University.

"He has a way to go to get into the Hillary Clinton league'' in terms of recognition, Jackson said. On the other hand, "he can still define himself for that 47 percent'' - the 33 percent who don't know Obama from Adam and the 14 percent who said they don't know much about him.

Obama, vacationing in Hawaii for the holidays, will decide while there whether to seek the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008, his sister Maya Soetoro said this week.

Chicago Sun-Times
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