Hillary battles back into US presidential race, despite Obama win

March 9th, 2008 - 12:21 pm ICT by admin  

(Lead)
By Arun Kumar
Washington, March 9 (IANS) Even as Barack Obama scored a big win in America’s smallest state Wyoming, a new poll suggested Hillary Clinton’s primary victories in Texas, Ohio and Rhode Island have revived her near-dead presidential campaign. A new Newsweek survey found that Clinton has erased the once-commanding lead that Obama held in most national polls following his 11 straight victories in February’s primaries and caucuses and is now in a statistical dead heat with her rival among registered Democrats and Democratic leaners.

Obama is the favoured nominee among 45 percent of Democrats, compared with 44 percent for Clinton, according to the poll, which was based on telephone interviews with 1,215 registered voters March 5-6, a couple of days before Saturday’s caucuses in Wyoming.

The poll also found that Democratic voters are ready to rally around the candidate they trust most to improve the economy, amid fears of a recession. But neither candidate has been able to lock up that issue, or many others.

The vast majority (69 percent) of Democratic voters now support the idea of a “dream ticket” with Clinton and Obama as running mates-leaving aside the crucial question of who runs on top.

Former president Bill Clinton Saturday referring to his wife’s comments that indicated a willingness to consider the prospect suggested that a joint ticket pairing the two would be “almost unstoppable.”

But Obama called the notion “premature,” saying he has won twice as many states as Clinton and a greater share of the popular vote, and he believes he can maintain a delegate lead.

While the ability to bring about change still matters most to Democrats (30 percent of respondents), experience is gaining ground, with 21 percent citing it as the quality they covet most in a candidate. That’s up from 15 percent in the last Newsweek Poll in February.

As the candidate running hardest on the platform of experience, Clinton was seen by a wide margin (61 percent to 22 percent) as the candidate possessing that quality.

Obama, meanwhile, retained his ironclad aura as an agent of change: he holds an 8-point margin (47 percent to 39 percent) over Clinton as the candidate that Democratic voters believe is most able to “bring about the changes this country needs.”

On the issue of preparedness for office, more Democratic voters believe Clinton’s plan for mending the nation is better than Obama’s (45 percent to 37 percent). But by a 41-point margin the same voters laud Obama as the candidate who can inspire the country.

Worse for Clinton, 58 percent of Democrats seemed to value aura over argument when they said that the ability to inspire people is more important than having a winning plan of action. And the Illinois senator is seen by most Democrats as the candidate who can bring people together (53 percent to 32 percent for Clinton).

Arizona Senatoer John McCain, who clinched the Republican presidential nomination Tuesday, may have already benefited from the Democratic infighting. Many Democrats in the Newsweek Poll said that they would back McCain if their favourite candidate were not the nominee.

Perhaps as a result, each candidate remains in a statistical tie with the Vietnam War veteran in a mock match up for the Nov 4 presidential poll. In a test election there Obama beat McCain 46 percent to 45 percent, and Clinton triumphed 48 percent to 46 percent.

McCain faces obstacles on several fronts. He would be the oldest person to start a first term as president, and three in 10 survey respondents think he is too old for the job.

McCain is also in danger of overplaying the endorsement he received this week from President George W. Bush. Campaigning side by side with the unpopular president could hurt McCain’s chances; the president’s approval rating hovers around 30 percent.

Even among Republicans, almost a third (32 percent) of survey respondents said they disapprove of the job Bush is doing. Finally, McCain’s support of the Iraq War may backfire. Although a slightly greater number of voters believe that things in Iraq are getting better (29 percent) rather than worse (25 percent) that could swing quickly if US casualties flare.

The rest of the poll results were mixed. They suggested that Clinton’s ominous “3 a.m. phone call” ad benefited her campaign. Almost half (45 percent) of Democrats said they would trust Clinton to answer the red phone in the White House in the wee hours, while only a third felt that way about Obama.

When all voters were asked which of the three candidates they would most trust to take a 3 a.m. call, the largest number pointed to McCain (45 percent), followed by Clinton (27 percent) and Obama (18 percent). Almost a fifth of Clinton’s supporters say that they would trust McCain more to take the call.

(Eds: Here add fm earlier Obama story on Wyoming win)

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