Democratic White House hopeful Hillary Clinton maintains a lead over top rival Barack Obama ahead of New Hampshire’s primary next week, but her margin is slipping, according to polls released on Saturday.
Clinton holds a four-percentage point lead over the Obama three days ahead of the northeastern state of New Hampshire’s primary contest, according to a Zogby poll taken on Thursday and Friday.
Thirty-two per cent of likely voters say they support Clinton, a senator from New York, against 28 per cent who say they support Obama, a senator from Illinois.
Just before Obama swept to victory in the Iowa caucuses — the nation’s first nominating contest — on Thursday, Clinton held a six point lead over Obama.
More striking still was a Suffolk University poll which showed Clinton’s lead over Obama had melted from 16 points to seven between Thursday and Saturday, indicating the surge of support enjoyed by Obama.
Former first lady Clinton, 60, is ahead of Obama, 46, in national polls. On the Republican side the race was similarly tight. Vietnam veteran and Arizona senator John McCain, who has long led New Hampshire polls, seemed to have taken a hit from foe Mitt Romney’s campaign attacks.
The Zogby poll put McCain in the lead with 34 per cent of likely voters compared to Romney’s 30, though the Suffolk poll suggested Romney was the leader with 29 per cent to McCain’s 25.
Fresh from the first test of the US presidential campaign, candidates hurried on Saturday to draw voters in New Hampshire, which will hold the United States’ first presidential primary election on Tuesday.
Unlike Iowa, where a small percentage of the state’s voters participated in caucuses to indicate presidential preferences, all registered voters in New Hampshire vote directly for their preferred candidates. Further complicating the race is the presence of a large bloc of independent voters.
While the Iowa winners, Democrat Obama and Republican Mike Huckabee, faced new criticism from their rivals, big-name candidates Hillary Clinton and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney scrambled on Saturday to recover their former front-runner status. The candidates are heading into several weeks of intense campaigning that culminates in more than two dozen state primary contests February 5, and wins in earlier contests bring valuable momentum.
Romney, who spent millions of his own dollars in his surprising Iowa loss, on Saturday cast himself as a change agent as he tried to repel surging Republican rival John McCain.
Noting that freshman Senator Obama beat Hillary Clinton, a second-term senator and former first lady, Romney said Iowans “wanted to see someone who said they would do something new and change Washington.”
But he added, “We cannot afford Barack Obama as our next president. He’s a very nice fellow. He’s a well-spoken fellow. But he’s never done it. It’s one thing to say it; it’s another thing to do it.” “Washington is broken” read a banner freshly erected at Romney’s first event of the day.