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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Clinton vs. Obama vs. McCain

Obama Surges Past Clinton, Trails McCain on Security, Poll Says

Barack Obama has surged ahead of Hillary Clinton in the battle for the Democratic presidential nomination, though he would face a tough general election against Republican John McCain, who enjoys a huge advantage on national-security issues.

A new Bloomberg/Los Angeles Times survey shows Obama is preferred by Democratic primary voters 48 percent to 42 percent, the first time he has overtaken Clinton in a Bloomberg/Times poll. In a general-election match-up among registered voters, McCain is 2 points ahead of Obama, within the margin of error; he beats Clinton by 6 points.

McCain runs ahead of Obama on every issue except health care. The Arizona senator has a 13-point advantage on Iraq and a 37-point lead on terrorism. He also does better on managing the economy. One area where Obama has a clear edge is on the question of who would bring the most change in Washington; the Illinois senator has an almost 3-to-1 lead.

``Obama has moved decisively ahead of Clinton, but as a general-election candidate he has a tougher road to travel in a campaign against John McCain,'' says Susan Pinkus, the Los Angeles Times polling director. McCain is seen as having the right experience and is ``the person people think could be the strongest leader.''

General Election

Clinton's 9-point lead over Obama in January has vanished. Obama, 46, is increasingly viewed as the Democrat best equipped to beat McCain, 71, in the general election, leading Clinton, a New York senator, by an 18-point margin on that question among Democratic primary voters.

Obama appears to have garnered some of the voters who supported former North Carolina Senator John Edwards, who dropped out of the Democratic race last month, Pinkus says.

By a more than 2-to-1 margin, registered voters say they favor Obama's plan to use tax credits and a fund for refinancing to address the subprime-mortgage crisis. Only 20 percent support Clinton's proposal to impose a moratorium on foreclosures, when informed of Obama's criticism that the plan would raise interest rates.


Clinton splits the vote with Obama among registered Democrats, while in January she had a 10-point advantage with this group. Independents support Obama 52 percent to Clinton's 31 percent.

Her base of support with women, less-educated and lower- income voters is also ebbing. Last month, she had a 12-point lead with women, compared with a 1-point advantage in the latest survey.

``I'm a woman and I'm a Democrat, but I don't automatically support women,'' says Cathy Dobbs, a 52-year-old real-estate agent from Covington, Georgia, who voted for Obama in her state's Feb. 5 primary. ``I'm tired of the establishment, and I don't look at him as the establishment.''

Clinton also had a 10-point lead last month with voters who don't have a college education. That has narrowed to a 1- point lead in this survey. Obama has solid support from male voters, at 52 percent, compared with 40 percent for Clinton.

Woman Question

Clinton, 60, would face a tougher road than Obama as her party's nominee, with almost a third of voters saying the nation isn't ready to elect a female president. That compares with just 20 percent who say the country isn't ready to elect an African-American.

At the same time, Clinton leads McCain on the issues where the Republican has an advantage over Obama, including the economy and illegal immigration, and she beats McCain by a wider margin than Obama on health care.

When it comes to who has the right experience to lead the nation, McCain has a 12-point lead over Clinton, compared with a 31-point advantage over Obama. Clinton leads McCain 45 percent to 23 percent when it comes to the question of who will change Washington, while Obama leads McCain 55 percent to 20 percent on that issue.

Jim Gallo, a 61-year-old business owner from Santa Clarita, California, says he was initially ``entranced'' by Obama's oratory on the stump.

Now, says Gallo, an independent voter, ``I question strongly his credentials, his experience.''

``The direction McCain wants to take this country will be far outlasting,'' he adds.

The poll of 1,246 registered voters was conducted Feb. 21- 25 and has a margin of sampling error of 3 percentage points. For the Democratic primary voters, the margin is 5 points.

Republican Satisfaction

In another sign of strength for McCain, more than half of Republican voters say they are happy with him as their nominee, including a majority of conservatives.

Still, just one in 10 says they are enthusiastic about the Arizona senator. Almost 3 in 10 conservatives and almost 40 percent who say they belong to the religious right say McCain isn't a true conservative.

Among Republican voters who say they aren't happy with McCain, half say they would either stay home or vote for another candidate. A plurality of Republicans, 42 percent, says Obama would be the more difficult Democratic candidate for McCain to beat in November, compared with 14 percent who choose Clinton.

Independents appear to be a significant problem for Clinton in a general election. While she has strong favorable ratings from Democrats, at 82 percent, just 48 percent of independents agree. Obama has a 63 percent favorable rating among independents, while McCain has a 65 percent positive rating.

Those preferences buttress Obama's more competitive position against McCain in a general election.

The poll also shows some potential signs of trouble for McCain, who has closely aligned himself with President George W. Bush on the Iraq war.

Just 35 percent of U.S. voters approve of the job Bush is doing as president, with only 16 percent strongly approving; 46 percent say they disapprove strongly. Three-fifths of voters say the situation in Iraq wasn't worth going to war over.