LAS VEGAS " Voters in Nevada were essentially split between presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama with about 14 percent of likely voters undecided, according to a newspaper poll.
The poll conducted June 9-11 by Washington-based Mason-Dixon Polling & Research Inc. for the Las Vegas Review Journal showed that 44 percent of voters prefer the Republican McCain while 42 percent prefer Obama, the Democratic nominee. The results are within the poll's error margin of 4 percentage points.
"It's a statistical tie. It's a toss-up," said Brad Coker, a pollster with Mason-Dixon. "Nevada is a battleground. It's clearly a state both candidates, both campaigns, both parties are going to pay a lot of attention to."
The poll showed McCain leading among independents with 43 percent compared to Obama's 32 percent. The poll surveyed 625 likely voters in the state, which has sided with the winner in every presidential race except 1976.
Coker said the poll showed that Obama's rival in the Democratic primary wouldn't help him in the general election. When asked how they would vote if Hillary Rodham Clinton were Obama's running mate, 19 percent of voters said they would be more likely to vote for Obama, 28 percent said they would be less likely to vote for him and 51 percent said it would have no effect.
The numbers were sharper among undecided voters, with 25 percent saying having Clinton on the ticket would make them more inclined to vote for Obama and 38 percent saying they'd be less likely to vote Democratic.
"He can't afford that," Coker said.
A McCain campaign spokesman said it was early in the race and the campaign wouldn't take anything for granted.
"We feel Sen. McCain's message plays especially well here," spokesman Rick Gorka said.
An Obama spokeswoman said the poll clearly showed that Nevada was a battleground state.
"We will be building on our statewide network of volunteers and supporters from Las Vegas to Elko to put together an aggressive general election campaign and work hard for every vote between now and November,"
Coker said that given a public that is unhappy with Republicans and more voters registering as Democrats, McCain will need to hold a lead among independents in order to have a chance in Nevada.
"This race is going to be a battle for independents, and right now ... McCain is ahead," he said.