London, Aug 26 : Democrat Barack Obama will lose the November US presidential election to John McCain unless he overhauls his message of change, outlines specific plans and reassures Americans that he is one of them, according to swing voters in Denver. The results of a focus group held by Frank Luntz, the leading American pollster, on the eve of the Democratic convention should sound alarm bells for the Obama campaign after a month in which McCain, has drawn level in the polls.
"The way that he gets here to the Democratic nomination - "change" - is not how he gets there, to the White House," The Telegraph quoted Luntz, as saying.
"If it's change, by itself, he will fail. Change what? Change how? Change why?" Luntz is a Republican but his work on focus groups is respected on both sides of the aisle.
Some 21 carefully selected undecided voters were gathered in a conference room in a downtown skyscraper. Observed by a small group of media through a one-way mirror, they were grilled by Luntz about their views of the candidates in a two-hour session.
Although 12 said they had voted for President George W. Bush in 2004, not a single person described themselves as a Republican, bad news for McCain, who has to shake off his party label to claim victory.
But these undecideds were willing to separate their disdain for the Republican Party from the individual candidates. The one-word descriptions of Obama showed he has mountain to climb to overcome the doubts of these swing voters in the swing state of Colorado -- a top Democratic target in November.
Among the words offered for Obama: Apocalypse, terrifying, scary, pizzazz, unknown, inexperienced, innovative, new, charismatic, smooth, unaffordable, change, hopeful.
McCain's name inspired: Dependable, strong, experienced, scary, patriot, veteran, experienced, Bush Two, veteran, older generation, little boy, integrity, frightening, honest, older, cantankerous, repeat.
The reason why the Obama campaign is trying so hard to link McCain to Bush was clear from the reaction to the current president: Self-centred, disciplined, unreliable, disappointing, conventional, dishonest, idiot, crook, nightmare, felon, self-assured, irresponsible.
But another disturbing element for Obama was how sceptical and even dismissive most of the group was about the word that has been central to his campaign - change. Some voters believed Obama could not relate to them and did not share their everyday concerns.