Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Obama, Thompson gain ground on Clinton, Giuliani

From Bloomberg News Service:
Rudy Giuliani and Hillary Clinton are the frontrunners for their parties' presidential nominations, though Fred Thompson has the most momentum on the Republican side and Democrat Barack Obama has the broadest appeal of any candidate.

A new Bloomberg/Los Angeles Times poll shows Thompson with 21 percent support, trailing only Giuliani, who has 27 percent; Arizona Senator John McCain and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney run well behind. Thompson, who has yet to announce his candidacy, beats everyone among self-described conservatives, considered the base of the Republican Party.

"Thompson was able to resonate because the Republicans are not that thrilled with their candidates," said Susan Pinkus, the Los Angeles Times poll director.

Among Democrats, Clinton, 59, is in first place, with 33 percent support, followed by Obama, 45, with 22 percent, and former Vice President Al Gore, who has said he won't be a candidate, with 15 percent. The survey of 1,056 registered voters was conducted June 7 to 10 and has a margin of sampling error of 3 percentage points.

Obama, an Illinois senator and Punahou graduate, is clearly the strongest general-election candidate. He is the only Democrat who beats all three major Republican contenders: Giuliani, McCain and Romney. Clinton runs behind all three Republican contenders in head-to-head match-ups.

Obama also does better than any other Democrat among independent voters who will vote in the Democratic primary, who often are central to electoral success. Moreover, he has more appeal with some Republican voters. For example, 15 percent of Republicans say they would choose Obama in a head-to-head match-up against Giuliani, 63, a former New York City mayor. Just 3 percent of Republican respondents say they would pick Clinton in a similar contest.

The poll shows other areas of strength for Obama. A majority of Democrats say they favor "a candidate who can bridge partisan divides" — a central theme of his campaign — over a candidate "with long experience in government and policy making," a cornerstone of Clinton's self-presentation. Independents voting in the Democratic primary say they favor unity over experience by more than 2-to-1.

In addition, 18 percent of Democratic primary voters say they couldn't vote for Clinton, the highest negative rating of any Democrat. Five percent say they couldn't vote for Obama.

Obama is "a new breed, and I think he can work with other people better than she can," said John Bryan, a 58-year-old retired budget analyst from Springfield, Illinois who favors Obama.

Clinton still does better among core Democrats, according to the poll. While Obama is the first African-American to have a serious chance at winning the Democratic nomination, Clinton runs more than 2-to-1 ahead among minority voters. She also does much better with female voters than the other major candidates, though she isn't nearly as strong with males.

Former Senator John Edwards, 54, who is in third place by a large margin behind the two Democratic frontrunners, has lost almost half his support since the last poll in April. Edwards stands at 8 percent, down from 14 percent two months ago.

When the Republican field is narrowed to the four strongest candidates, it remains largely a two-man race. Giuliani leads with 32 percent, closely followed by Thompson, with 28 percent. McCain, 70, trails with 17 percent, followed by Romney with 14 percent.

Thompson's strength in the Republican Party comes among males, with whom he runs even with Giuliani, and among self- described religious conservatives, where he runs ahead of the pack.

Penny Crider, a 44-year-old bus driver from Livonia, Michigan, says she opposes abortion and likes Thompson partly because he has consistently opposed abortion rights. "His core beliefs have never changed," Crider, a Republican, said in a follow-up interview. "He doesn't flip-flop."

Thompson, 64, a former Republican senator from Tennessee, may also benefit from his fame as a film and television actor. "When I watch him on `Law and Order' I've always loved him," said Al Pepe, a 79-year-old retired electronics manager from Jacksonville, Florida.

"He reminds me of Reagan," said Pepe, a Republican who favors Thompson. "You want to listen to him."

Giuliani appears to derive much of his support from his image as the hero of Sept. 11. A strong majority of poll respondents say national security is more important than social issues, such as abortion, where Giuliani's pro-choice position puts him out of sync with the majority of his party's voters. Giuliani does better with female voters than the other Republican candidates.

McCain's weakening support may stem from several issues, one of which probably is his backing for immigration-overhaul legislation favored by President George W. Bush and many congressional Democrats, and opposed by much of the Republican base. Among the almost one-fifth of Republican primary voters who say immigration is the most important issue facing the county, McCain receives almost no support.

Moreover, his visible support for Bush on immigration and Iraq appears to be paying no political dividends. Among the minority of Republican voters who want the next president to continue Bush's policies, McCain finishes a distant fifth.

McCain

In the poll, 22 percent of Republican primary voters say they couldn't vote for McCain, almost twice as many as any other candidate.

In the hypothetical general-election match-ups, Clinton barely loses to McCain and Romney, 60, while trailing Giuliani 49 percent to 39 percent. Edwards runs ahead of Romney and Giuliani and behind McCain.

Obama has a double-digit lead over Romney and McCain. He defeats Giuliani, 46 percent to 41 percent. The Illinois senator runs well among independent voters and self-described moderates.

In a generic test, registered voters, by 49 percent to 41 percent, say they would prefer a Democrat to be the next president. Among the third of the electorate that considers the Iraq war the most important issue, Democrats are favored by a 2-to-1 margin
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