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Postives and Negatives

With eight in 10 Americans now closely tuned in to the presidential campaign, the new Washington Post-ABC News poll finds shifting impressions of the leading candidates. Here's where things stand now.

Kudos to the Winners...

The public appears to have warmed up to each of the four candidates who've won key early contests. On the Democratic side, Barack Obama's strongly favorable rating has climbed 10 points, and with a 63 percent overall approval rating (up 12 points from November), he is the highest rated of all the main contenders.

Following Hillary Rodham Clinton's New Hampshire victory, her favorability rating has bumped up eight points: At 58 percent, Clinton is at her highest mark in Post-ABC polling since June of 1999, when she still served as First Lady.

Two-time New Hampshire winner John McCain zoomed to 59 percent favorable (a 16-point increase), and even better for the senator from Arizona, nearly all of that increase (14 points) came among those saying they feel strongly favorable towards him.

The GOP's Iowa victor, Mike Huckabee, doubled his favorability rating since November (from 21 percent to 42 percent), with much of this gain coming from increased awareness. Back then, half had no opinion of the former Arkansas governor, that number now stands at 20 percent. He's the only one of the four winners to post an increase on the negative side as well: his unfavorable rating rose eight points to 38 percent.

But A Mixed Bag for the Runners-Up...

Rudolph W. Giuliani's favorability rating appears to be following the same path as his support in national polls. At 46 percent, his rating falls below 50 percent for the first time in Post-ABC polling. Last December, amid speculation that he would run, the former mayor earned a 67 percent favorable rating, which at the time placed him higher than other candidates in the race. Now, after a year of campaigning mostly spent as the front-runner for his party's nomination, he no longer leads in votes or likability.

Even with disappointing second-place finishes in Iowa and New Hampshire under his belt, Mitt Romney has boosted his favorability six points to 34 percent. But there is also bad news for the former Massachusetts governor: his overall rating remains a net negative (46 percent unfavorable) and the percentage rating him unfavorably has risen by five points.

Fred Thompson's favorability rating has gotten markedly worse since November. Although the percentage rating him positively remains about the same (30 percent compared to 33 percent in November), the percentage giving a negative assessment has climbed eight points to 45 percent. About a quarter have no opinion on the former senator and Law and Order star.

The lone Democrat in this category, John Edwards, enjoys a higher favorability rating despite stagnant support levels in the latest Post-ABC national poll. The former senator?s favorability rating reached a new high in Post-ABC polling: 57 percent. About a third rate the 2004 vice presidential candidate unfavorably, unchanged since November.

Looking ahead:

To be successful in the general election, the candidates will have to appeal to one key segment of voters, independents. Here's a look at how each candidate is doing among the nation's "non-partisans."

Candidate favorability among independents:
Favorable Jan. 2008 Favorable Nov. 2007 Change
Mike Huckabee 42 24 +18
John McCain 60 43 +17
Barack Obama 66 50 +16
Hillary Rodham Clinton 59 49 +10
John Edwards 56 47 +9
Mitt Romney 31 28 +3
Fred Thompson 27 31 -4
Rudy Giuliani 43 52 -9

Full question text and methodlogy for the poll can be found here.

By Jennifer Agiesta  |  January 15, 2008; 4:00 PM ET
Categories:  Polls  
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