John McCain and the Republican party got a definite boost, after The Republican National Convention. USA Today’s Gallup Poll shows McCain leading Obama currently.

Republic John McCain leads Democrat Barack Obama by 50%-46% among registered voters, the Republican’s biggest advantage since January and a turnaround from the USA TODAY poll taken just before the convention opened in St. Paul. At that time, McCain was under by 7 percentage points.

The Republican convention lead has helped not only McCain but also attitudes toward Republican congressional candidates and the GOP in general.

“The Republicans had a very successful convention and, at least initially, the selection of Sarah Palin has made a big difference,” says political scientist Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia. “He’s in a far better position than his people imagined he would be in at this point.”

However, Sabato, who has analyzed the polls since 1960, says the pre-polls only determine the outcome about half of the time. “You could flip a coin and be about as predictive,” he says. “It is really surprising how quickly convention memories fade.”

One of the electorate’s top issues is on handling of the economy. Before the convention, Obama was ahead by 19 points, and now only ahead by 3.

McCain’s ties to President Bush makes him a bit vulnerable. About 63% of people are worried McCain would follow policies close to President Bush, with Bush’s approval rating at only 33%.

In the latest poll taken over this past weekend, McCain leads Obama by 54%-44% among people that are most likely to vote. The survey of 1,022 adults, including 959 registered voters, has a margin of error of +/— 3 points for both samples.

Among the findings:

• Before the convention, Republicans by 47%-39% were not as enthusiastic about voting. Now, they are more enthusiastic by 60%-24%, a sweeping change that narrows a key Democratic advantage. Democrats report being more enthusiastic by 67%-19%.

• Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, draws a very strong reaction from both Democrats and Republicans. Now, 29% say she makes them more likely to vote for McCain, 21% less likely.

Obama’s choice of Delaware Sen. Joe Biden as running mate made 14% more likely to vote for the Democrat, 7% less likely.

• McCain’s acceptance speech Thursday received lower ratings than the one Obama gave a week earlier: 15% called McCain’s speech “excellent” compared with 35% for Obama.polls