From: Reuters
Published December 12, 2007 03:26 PM

Clinton's lead ebbs in New Hampshire: poll

By Jason Szep

BOSTON (Reuters) - Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton's lead over rival Barack Obama in New Hampshire has narrowed a month before the state's nominating primary in the 2008 race for the White House, polls showed on Wednesday.

The WMUR/CNN poll showed the New York senator leading Obama 31 percent to 30 percent in the early voting state of New Hampshire, which holds its primary on January 8. The survey had a 5 percentage point error margin.

A separate poll by Suffolk University for Boston's WHDH-TV also showed Obama gaining in New Hampshire, winnowing Clinton's lead to single digits and suggesting a fierce race in a state where the former first lady enjoyed a big lead just weeks ago.

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The Suffolk University poll showed Clinton's support in the northeastern state falling by a percentage point to 33 percent and Obama's rising by 4 percentage points to 26 percent, narrowing Clinton's lead to 7 points from 12 last month.

New Hampshire's primary helps kick off the state-by-state battle to pick candidates for the November 8, 2008, election. The midwestern state of Iowa holds the first contest of the party nominating process with its January 3 caucuses.

"Obama leads among men, independents and younger voters while Clinton is well ahead among women, registered Democrats, and older voters," said David Paleologos, director of Boston-based Suffolk University's Political Research Center.

In the poll for CNN and WMUR, a New Hampshire television station, former North Carolina Sen. and Democratic vice presidential nominee John Edwards was in third place, with 16 percent.

Among Republicans, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee remained mired in single digits in New Hampshire despite a rapid rise in national polls, the CNN/WMUR poll showed.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney leads the Republican field in the CNN/WMUR poll with 32 percent support, followed by former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Arizona Sen. John McCain, who are tied at 19 percent, and Huckabee at 9 percent.

TROUBLING NEWS FOR CLINTON

The polls spelled the most trouble for Clinton, who was recently edged out of first place by Obama in a Des Moines Register newspaper poll in Iowa.

She fell 5 percentage points in New Hampshire from last month, while Obama gained 8 percentage points, CNN/WMUR said. Clinton, who would be the first female U.S. president, saw her support among women shrink to 33 percent from 43 percent.

The poll was taken from December 6 to December 10, including last weekend, when talk show host Oprah Winfrey campaigned with Obama in Iowa, South Carolina and New Hampshire.

Among Republicans, the Suffolk poll showed Romney's lead slipping in New Hampshire to 31 percent from 34 percent, while McCain jumped 6 points into second place at 19 percent, ahead of Giuliani.

Paleologos said Obama, a U.S. senator from Illinois, could gain further as voters gravitate away from struggling Democratic candidates such as New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, Delaware Sen. Joe Biden and Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich.

"There has been a rotation away from the lower-tier candidates like Biden, Kucinich and Richardson, all of whom have lost points, and the lion's share have gone to the undecided category but some have gone to Obama," he said.

He said his poll, which had a 5.65-percentage-point error margin, had other bad news for Clinton. It showed that Edwards' supporters viewed Obama more favorably than Clinton, which could draw more support to Obama if Edwards falters.

(Editing by Patricia Zengerle)

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