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McCain, Giuliani about even with state GOP

MOBILE (AP) — A survey of likely Republican voters in Alabama found that U.S. Sen. John McCain and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani are about even at the top of a crowded GOP field of presidential candidates.

In a Mobile Press-Register and University of South Alabama telephone poll of 402 people planning to vote in February's Republican presidential primary,

McCain was favored by 23 percent, while Giuliani was the choice of 22 percent of those responding to the survey.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney received 12 percent, followed by actor and former U.S. Sen. Fred Thompson, with 10 percent, and former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, with 7 percent.

Thompson and Gingrich are considering running for the GOP nomination, but have not officially entered the race.

"It's still pretty much anybody's election," said Keith Nicholls, the director of polling at the University of South Alabama.

The poll, conducted from April 21 to April 25, has a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percentage points.

McCain, who mounted an unsuccessful presidential run in 2000, has spent much of the last two years seeking to build a national campaign. The 70-year-old McCain has been handicapped by questions about his age and his steadfast support for the war in Iraq, some analysts say.

Giuliani is running weaker in Alabama than the nation as a whole. He garnered 33 percent support in an NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey taken earlier this month.

Giuliani won nationwide acclaim for his performance in rallying New York City after the September 2001 terrorist attacks.

But some Alabama Republicans may be put off by his support for abortion rights and other stands that leave him to the left of some of his rivals, Nicholls said.

And in a Bible Belt state, the past turmoil in Giuliani's personal life is another potential trouble spot. Now on his third marriage, he became involved with his current wife while still married to his second.

More than half of those surveyed in the new Press-Register poll ranked character and morals as the most important factor in deciding which candidate to support.

Nicholls said he's not sure how much prospective voters know about Giuliani's past personal problems.

"I don't think they've tuned in to the extent that they will
when these candidates begin going after each other," Nicholls said.

Alabama's Democratic and Republican presidential primaries are set for Feb. 5, 2008.

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

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