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Poll: Familiar names top presidential list in state

By Jay Reeves
Associated Press Writer

BIRMINGHAM — A poll released Friday showed Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama atop the Democratic presidential race in Alabama more than a year before the state’s 2008 primary, while Sen. John McCain and former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani led on the Republican side.

While those familiar names were on top, none got any huge percentage of support and about one-fifth of the respondents said they were undecided.

But pollster Gerald Johnson said the survey provided an early snapshot of the presidential race in Alabama, among the first states with a primary next year.

Power of reputation

“Most of it is name recognition, but it’s not just name recognition. Something they have heard attracts them to that name,” said Johnson, of Capital Survey Research Center, the polling arm of the Alabama Education Association.

The telephone poll of 879 registered voters was conducted over seven days this month ending Wednesday. Findings on the party primary races are supposed to be correct to within plus or minus 4.9 percentage points.

When asked, “If the Republican Party primary election for president were today, for whom would you vote,” 24.1 percent answered McCain and 20.1 percent said Giuliani. Both men have formed exploratory committees, the first step toward a run for the White House.

Early leaders

The results were so close neither potential GOP candidate had a clear lead, but both were well ahead of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia, with 14.9 percent. Gov. Bob Riley — who has never been mentioned as a presidential candidate and denied speculation of a possible vice presidential run — was fourth with 14.1 percent. All others were in single-digits.

Among Democrats, Clinton had a clear lead with 27.4 percent to 18.8 percent for Obama, the Illinois Democrat who has formed an exploratory committee in hope of becoming the nation’s first black president. Clinton led Obama among black voters in Alabama, even though she has yet to start her own committee.

Sen. John Edwards of South Carolina, a declared candidate who was scheduled to be in Birmingham for a private fundraiser on Friday, was third among Democrats with the support of 14.3 percent, followed by former Vice President Al Gore with 11.1 percent. All others came in under 2 percent.

Among Democrats, 21.9 percent were undecided or didn’t answer, and 22.5 percent of Republicans said the same thing. But the results could be bad news for any candidate not near the top, Johnson said, since voters tend to cling to strong opinions even with the election so far away.

“People develop a frame of reference in which they see the world, and this is pretty firm,” he said.

Among everyone who participated in the survey, 46.2 percent said they planned to vote in the Republican primary, and 44 percent intend to vote Democratic.

The state is getting more attention from presidential candidates than in past election cycles because the primaries will be held on Feb. 5, 2008. In the past, Alabama’s presidential primary was held in June, or long after the races were typically decided.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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