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Obama lead drops to 5 points

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Democrat Barack Obama’s lead over Republican rival John McCain has dropped to 5 points, according to a Reuters/C-SPAN/Zogby poll released on Sunday.

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Obama leads McCain by 49 percent to 44 percent among likely U.S. voters in the daily tracking poll, which has a margin of error of 2.9 points. Obama’s lead has dropped over the last three days after hitting a high of 12 points on Thursday.

“Things are trending back for McCain. His numbers are rising and Obama’s are dropping on a daily basis. There seems to be a direct correlation between this and McCain talking about the economy,” pollster John Zogby said.

Obama, 47, took the lead in most national polls in recent weeks as the financial crisis and plunging stock market seized center stage ahead of the November 4 election.

McCain, 72, appeared slow to respond to Obama’s financial message but in recent days has ramped up the economic themes of his own campaign. On Saturday the Arizona Republican warned voters of the dangers of what he termed a Democratic take-over in both the White House and Congress.

Obama has countered by seeking to link McCain’s proposals to the policies of outgoing Republican President George W. Bush, who fares very poorly in public approval surveys.

Obama’s lead among voters making less than $35,000 per year remains substantial at a little over 70 percent. But McCain, who had previously scored well only with the highest income brackets, now holds slight leads among voters in all income groups starting at $35,000 and above.

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“You’ve got to think that it is tax-and-spend that concerns them. Is McCain starting to connect with the middle class?” Zogby said.

Obama still had solid, if slightly diminished, leads among two important groups which could play pivotal roles in the November 4 election. Among independents he had a 14 point lead, down from a peak of 29 points. Women also still backed Obama by a 14-point margin, down from 20 points late last week.

McCain, who once had a 4-point deficit among male voters, now has a 4-point lead at 48-44 percent. And whites back McCain by a 12-point margin, up from 6 points on Friday.

Independent Ralph Nader and Libertarian Bob Barr both received support from 1 percent of those polled, a slight dip for Nader. Three percent of the people said they remained undecided in the race.

The rolling tracking poll surveyed 1,203 likely voters in the presidential election. In a tracking poll, the most recent day’s results are added, while the oldest day’s results are dropped to monitor changing momentum.

The president is determined by who wins the Electoral College, which has 538 members apportioned by population in each state and the District of Columbia. Electoral votes are allotted on a winner-take-all basis in all but two states, which divide them by congressional district.

Reporting by Andrew Quinn; Editing by Alan Elsner