Clinton holds lead in Nev. Democratic poll

RENO " U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton continues to lead in Nevada's Democratic presidential caucus, according to a new poll.

In a survey of 400 likely Democratic caucus-goers, 45 percent supported Clinton, 20 percent supported U.S. Sen. Barack Obama and 12 percent supported former U.S. Sen. John Edwards.

The poll, conducted Nov. 16-19 by Maryland-based Research 2000 for a Reno newspaper, has a margin of error of 5 percentage points.

But political observers said the outcome of Nevada's Jan. 19 caucus could still be swayed by what happens in Iowa and New Hampshire.

"There is no question that what happens in New Hampshire and Iowa is really going to dictate what happens in Nevada," said pollster Del Ali. "Even with the

margin Clinton has."

In contrast with the Democratic race, the Republican race in Nevada continued to show more movement, as the front-runner status flipped once again between former

New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

In the November poll of 400 likely Republican caucus-goers, 29 percent supported Giuliani and 22 percent supported Romney. In August, those standings were virtually reversed.

"Everyone is talking about electability as an issue with Hillary Clinton," Ali said. "The irony is, it is the Republican voters who are thinking about electability. That is why you've got Giuliani in the shape that he is."

Romney has spent much more time campaigning in Nevada than Giuliani. Romney also has hired Nevada staff, where Giuliani has not.

But Giuliani spokesman Jarrod Agen said that's not a concern.

"There's no substitute for the experience the mayor has in New York," Agen said. "That is the greatest asset to our campaign."

Ryan Erwin, a Nevada adviser to Romney, said polling in caucus states is unreliable.

"Even if people say they are going to vote in a caucus, actually having them turn out in the right place on the right day is an art to itself," he said.

No matter who wins their party's Nevada caucus, the eventual nominee will face a sharply divided electorate in 2008, the poll indicates.

Gauging hypothetical head-to-head contests between the Democratic front-runners and the Republican front-runners, the poll found statistical dead heats in each matchup.

Further, the sample of 600 likely voters indicated dismal views of Clinton and each of the four Republican front-runners, with more respondents rating those candidates unfavorably than favorably.

"That's bad news for Republicans," said Eric Herzik, a political scientist with the University of Nevada, Reno and a Republican. "That's telling me it is almost a solid block of respondents saying, 'I don't care who the Republican is, I don't like him."'


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