Sen. John Kerry (searchhas moved out to a commanding lead among likely voters for New York's March 2 Democratic presidential primary, a statewide independent poll reported Thursday.

The Quinnipiac University Polling Institute (searchsaid the senator from Massachusetts was favored by 53 percent of likely voters, including those leaning toward one candidate or another.

Trailing Kerry were former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean at 12 percent; Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina at 8 percent; Al Sharpton of New York at 4 percent; and Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio at 3 percent.

Former Gen. Wesley Clark, who pulled out of the race Wednesday, was tied with Edwards.

Earlier independent polls conducted before Kerry's surge in the early primaries had shown Dean ahead in New York.

"It's beginning to look like `Super Tuesday' March 2 ... will be super for Senator Kerry," said Maurice Carroll, director of the polling institute.

Noting that Kerry beats Sharpton among black Democrats, 44 percent to 15 percent, Carroll said Sharpton, "the only New Yorker in the pack, doesn't have much oomph as a native son."

Sharpton is black and Kerry is white.

The telephone poll of 541 likely Democratic presidential primary voters was conducted Feb. 4-10 and has a sampling error margin of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

The poll comes one day after several prominent New York Democrats threw their weight behind Kerry, including two of the state's leading black politicians, Rep. Charles Rangel and former state Comptroller H. Carl McCall.

Rangel had been one of Clark's top supporters while McCall, the Democrats' unsuccessful candidate for governor in 2002, had been neutral in the presidential race.