Clinton, McCain and Giuliani Top NH Poll

By Monisha Bansal | July 7, 2008 | 8:32 PM EDT

( - New York Sen. Hillary Clinton is the early frontrunner among candidates in New Hampshire for the Democratic presidential nomination, and among Republicans, Arizona Sen. John McCain and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani are tied, according to a new Granite State poll.

Historically, the first primary in the nation, New Hampshire is seen as a bellwether for the nation's presidential primaries and caucuses.

The poll, conducted by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center, interviewed 664 randomly selected New Hampshire likely primary voters by telephone between Thursday and Monday. Included in the sample were 353 likely 2008 Democratic voters and 311 likely 2008 Republican primary voters.

"Among likely Republican primary voters, Arizona Senator John McCain has consistently been the most popular, picking up where he left off in 2000," the center said. But the latest results show Giuliani is now in "a dead heat with McCain."

Twenty-eight percent of likely Republican primary voters say they will vote for McCain, 27 percent for Giuliani, 13 percent favor former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, and nine percent prefer former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Gingrich has said he may announce his decision to run in September.

Among the remaining potential candidates, Colorado Rep. Tom Tancredo came in at three percent, Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback two percent, and one percent each for former New York Gov. George Pataki, Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.

"One of the things that makes the New Hampshire primary unique is that undeclared voters, often called independents, can vote in either primary," the center said.

"Currently, undeclared voters say they plan to vote in the Democratic primary by a 68 percent to 32 percent margin. This means that the Republican primary is likely to consist of far fewer independent voters than in 2000 when McCain won handily over George W. Bush," it said.

Andrew Smith, director of the Survey Center, told Cybercast News Service this was the "biggest surprise."

"This makes McCain's moves to the right seem pretty smart," Smith said, adding that the Arizona senator will have to make himself appealing to a narrower section of the electorate.

Of the Republican candidates, Giuliani has the highest favorability rating, with a net positive rating of 56 percent.

"Giuliani has high favorability ratings among most voters, but receives his highest ratings among union households, newcomers to New Hampshire, and voters who do not attend church," the poll found.

McCain's net favorability rating is positive 32 percent. "McCain is viewed most favorably by self-identified moderates and liberals and recent arrivals to New Hampshire," the center said.

Least favorable is Gingrich, with a net rating of negative one percent.

On the Democratic side, Clinton has consistently been the most popular of the potential candidates, the center said, comparing Clinton's support since February 2005.

Clinton currently has the support of 35 percent of likely Democratic primary voters followed by Illinois Sen. Barack Obama with 21 percent, former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards with 16 percent, and former Vice President Al Gore (who has not declared his candidacy) with eight percent.

Delaware Sen. Joe Biden received three percent of the support and retired Gen. Wesley Clark, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack and Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd scored one percent each.

Though Clinton may be the most popular, Edwards is the best liked, with a positive net favorability rating of 61 percent, with "broad favorability across all demographic groups," the poll found.

Clinton's net favorability rating is a positive 59 percent, and she "has broad support but is viewed least favorably by voters who support the war in Iraq and the [troop] surge there."

Obama has a positive net rating of 55 percent. "He has wide support and is viewed most favorably by voters with high levels of income and education. His lowest favorability ratings come from voters with lower levels of education," the center said.

Smith said there is "some room for movement between now and the primary."

"Giuliani and Obama are the wild cards - [they] could go up or plummet," he said, noting that "McCain, Romney, Clinton and Edwards are all pretty seasoned."

Smith said it "doesn't look like there are any likely folks in the bottom tier who will bump up. Perhaps Newt, but he's pretty unpopular among many Republicans."

Clinton is scheduled to be in New Hampshire this weekend, and Obama will visit the state on Monday.

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