WASHINGTON – New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, who briefly competed against each other in a Senate race in 2000, hold early leads over potential rivals for their party’s 2008 presidential nominations, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.
Clinton has a clear head start over other prospective Democratic candidates, with Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, who only a month ago expressed interest in a 2008 race, now running second and former North Carolina senator John Edwards, the party’s 2004 vice presidential nominee, in third.
Giuliani’s advantage in the Republican race appears more tenuous as he holds a narrow lead over Arizona Sen. John McCain, who nonetheless is far ahead of Giuliani in organizing a presidential campaign. Former House speaker Newt Gingrich, who has not disclosed his plans for 2008, is well back in third.
Giuliani, whose leadership after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, earned widespread praise, enjoys strongly favorable ratings, according to the survey, with two-thirds of Americans giving him positive marks.
Clinton remains the most polarizing politician among those considering a campaign for president in 2008, but her image has improved perceptibly during her six-year tenure in the Senate.
In contrast, McCain’s favorability ratings have declined over the past nine months. Among independents, his support has dropped 15 percentage points since March. The decline has come at a time when McCain has been calling for sending more troops to Iraq and as he has aggressively reached out to conservative groups and Christian conservative leaders.
These early poll results largely reflect name identification among the field of candidates, which includes several political celebrities and many others who remain generally unknown to people outside their states.
Among Democrats, Clinton leads the field with 39 percent, followed by Obama at 17 percent, Edwards at 12 percent, former vice president Al Gore at 10 percent and Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, the party’s 2004 nominee, at 7 percent. No other Democrat received more than 2 percent.
Among Republicans, Giuliani is favored by 34 percent to McCain’s 26 percent. Gingrich is at 12 percent, and outgoing Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney runs fourth at 5 percent.