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Polls show Obama-McCain race tight as campaign begins

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  • NEW: New York congressional delegation endorses Barack Obama
  • Obama tells Virginia crowd DNC will no longer accept money from lobbyists
  • John McCain hopes for honorable campaign, he says in Florida speech
  • Poll of polls shows the two presumptive nominees just 2 percentage points apart
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(CNN) -- A poll of polls on Thursday showed John McCain and Barack Obama locked in a virtual dead heat as the presidential general election campaign got under way.

Obama, the presumptive Democratic nominee, held a narrow 2 point lead over his Republican counterpart among registered voters, 47 percent to 45 percent, according to CNN's average of four recent national polls. Nearly 10 percent said they were undecided.

The polls included in the sample were conducted between May 21 and June 3, all before Obama wrapped up the nomination Tuesday night. The poll of polls included recent surveys from CBS, Gallup, Pew and Newsweek.

The poll of polls does not have a margin of sampling error.

Obama picked up the endorsement of the New York Democratic congressional delegation Thursday.

Rep. Charles Rangel announced the endorsement by U.S. representatives and senators from the home state of Obama's primary season rival, Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Rangel noted that Clinton has announced her support for Obama and pledged to help him win the White House.

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Obama kicked off his campaign Thursday in Virginia, signaling that he thinks he can bring the once-solidly Republican state into the Democratic column in November. Video Watch why Obama thinks Virginia is so important »

He held a town hall meeting on health care in Bristol, Virginia, in the rural southwest corner of the state -- a region where he did poorly during the February 12 primary, despite his resounding victory in the state. An enthusiastic crowd cheered and clasped Obama's hand as he entered the packed high school gymnasium. Video Watch McCain's town hall challenge to Obama »

"Southwest Virginia is an example of so much that is good about this country, but so many people have been forgotten," Obama said. "Washington hasn't been listening to you and hasn't been paying attention to you. And I'm here to let you know that I'm going to be paying attention, and I'm going to be listening, and we're going to make life better right here in southwest Virginia."

Obama told the crowd that going forward, the Democratic National Committee would no longer accept money from federal lobbyists or political action committees.

"We're going to change how Washington works," he said. "They will not fund my party, they will not run our White House, and they will not drown out the voice of the American people."

The day will culminate with an evening rally in northern Virginia, where Sen. Jim Webb, often mentioned as a possible vice presidential candidate, will make his first campaign appearance with Obama.

Virginia hasn't voted for a Democrat for president since Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964, but for more than a year, Obama's campaign has cited the state's 13 electoral votes as part of its argument that he can turn red states into blue ones.

McCain campaigned in Florida on Thursday, with a fundraiser and a speech to the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors.

"This will be a long and hard and well-fought and, I believe, honorable campaign, one that is marked by respect," McCain told the editors' group.

McCain said his proposal for a series of town hall meetings with Obama was based on a plan agreed to by President Kennedy and Sen. Barry Goldwater before the 1964 presidential election. Video Watch more on McCain's challenge »

"They were friends, and they had agreed to fly around the country in the same airplane," he said.

"I think that one thing that we can all agree on is that Americans are getting weary of politics as usual, the hourly 'gotcha' story, the spin, the back and forth that becomes part of campaigns that many times are neither educational or illuminating to the voters," McCain said.

McCain also expressed confidence about the situation in Iraq, an issue sure to play a major role in McCain and Obama's foreign policy debates.

"I can look you in the eye tell you it's long and it's hard and it's tough and there's a lot of hurdles to overcome, but we are winning in Iraq now thanks to Gen. David Petraeus and ... a brave young group of Americans," he said.

McCain has painted Obama as naïve about the Middle East, especially his willingness to consider talks with Iran's president and his opposition to the surge of U.S. troops serving in Iraq, a policy McCain supported and one that he says is working.

Obama has hit back with the charge that a vote for McCain would be a vote for a third term of Bush policies, rather than the change he says people want.

CNN has learned that Obama will ask one of his top fundraisers, Paul Tewes, to aid in the DNC's fundraising operation, which has lagged far behind its Republican counterpart this year. Tewes will be the Illinois senator's eyes and ears at the DNC and see to it that the party and the candidate are in sync, according to Obama senior adviser Linda Douglass.

Federal Election Commission reports show that the national Democratic Party has raised less than $76 million for the 2008 elections and spent nearly all of that, leaving $4.4 million in cash on hand at the end of April. By comparison, the Republican National Committee has raised $143 million and had nearly $41 million in the bank.

McCain's campaign released figures Thursday indicating he set a new monthly fundraising record of $21.5 million in May. That brings his overall total for the election cycle to about $122 million, and he had $31.5 million in cash on hand, campaign spokesman Brian Rogers said.


Obama's campaign fundraising has far outstripped McCain's. At the end of April, Obama had raised more than $272 million for the campaign to date and had nearly $47 million cash on hand, according to FEC records.

The two rivals had a short conversation Wednesday night, according to an Obama aide. Douglass said the conversation was cordial, and both said they looked forward to a "civil discussion."

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