WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama's loss in the Pennsylvania primary and the political firestorm over his former pastor have cut into his lead over rival Hillary Clinton among Democratic voters, according to polls released on Wednesday.
According to a New York Times/CBS News poll, 51 percent of Democratic voters now say they expect Obama to win their party's nomination. That's an 18 point-slide from a month ago when 69 percent said they expected Obama to take on Republican John McCain in the November presidential election.
The latest survey found that 48 percent of Democrats believe Obama, an Illinois senator, has a better chance of beating McCain than Clinton, a New York senator, versus 56 percent a month ago.
The poll was conducted Friday through Tuesday, before Obama strongly denounced his former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, for making racially charged comments that roiled the Illinois senator's presidential campaign.
Obama's campaign was engulfed by the Wright controversy after a nearly 10-point loss to Clinton in the Pennsylvania primary early this month.
The Times/CBS poll also found that Democrats see no early end to the Obama-Clinton battle. About 70 percent of Democratic voters predict that their party's nominee will not be decided before the party's national nominating convention in August, the newspaper said.
A majority of Democrats also said the protracted primary race will eventually hurt the Democratic Party's chances against McCain, the Republican senator from Arizona, in the general election.
The nationwide telephone poll was conducted with 1,065 adults and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points over all, and plus or minus 5 percentage points among Democrats alone.
A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found that some voters feel McCain better reflects their values than the Democratic candidates.
Fifty-four percent of respondents said that they identify with McCain's background and his set of values, compared with 35 percent who didn't feel that connection.
In the survey, 45 percent said they identify with Obama's values, down 5 points from last month when 50 percent of voters said they identified with his background and values, versus 39 percent who did not.
The decline seems to suggest that the cover over his former pastor his comment about "bitter" small-town America clinging to guns and religion have had a negative impact, NBC said.
On the background/values question, Obama's score fell among small-town/rural voters from 46 percent support to 31 percent. Among elderly voters, Obama dropped from 52 percent identifying with his values to 36 percent.
The poll of 1,006 registered voters was conducted from Friday through Monday and has an overall margin of error of plus-minus 3.1 percentage points.