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McCain, Clinton Leading California Poll

By Karl Vick
LOS ANGELES -- The latest poll out of California has Sen. John McCain vaulting into a sizable lead over the rest of the Republican presidential field while Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) maintains a hefty margin on the Democratic side.

The 39 percent showing for McCain, among likely primary voters in the Los Angeles Times/CNN/Politico survey, is nearly twice what the same poll showed for the Arizona senator on Jan. 15, before he racked up primary wins in New Hampshire and South Carolina. He now leads former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney by 13 points two weeks ahead of the state's Feb. 5 vote.

The McCain surge appears all the more impressive because California's GOP primary will be restricted, as was the polling, to registered Republicans -- shutting out the independents who have so helped McCain elsewhere. But the Arizona senator runs about evenly with Romney - 32 percent to 28 percent - among the two-thirds of California Republicans who call themselves conservative, while running up powerful numbers (50 percent to Romney's 15 percent) among those identifying themselves as moderate or liberal.

Clinton led the Democratic field with 49 percent to 32 percent for Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) and 11 percent for former senator John Edwards (N.C.). The gross numbers show little change from the poll two weeks earlier but with choices more firmly held.

Clinton's strongest support was with registered Democrats, all women (including a 20-point lead among those with a college degree, a category Obama formerly led) the elderly and Hispanics. Obama's draw mirrored the results in South Carolina: strong among African American voters and winning about a quarter of the white vote. The poll shows Clinton ahead everywhere in the state except the San Francisco Bay Area, where Obama runs about even. He has reversed Clinton's once-strong lead among independents, and now leads 41 percent to 28 percent.

The poll was taken last Wednesday through Sunday, and so only one day's sample could reflect any impact from Obama's strong win in South Carolina on Saturday.

If the Obama campaign wants to take advantage of that win, however, it would do well to make haste. California allows voting by mail, and as many as 50 percent of primary voters are expected to cast absentee ballots. One in five Republicans had already done so when pollsters called. Among this group, McCain led Romney 39 percent to 35 percent -- about even, given the sample size.

Democratic absentees were going to Clinton over Obama 53 percent to 30 percent. Among those who plan to vote in person, her lead was eight points.

By Post Editor  |  January 28, 2008; 9:38 PM ET
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