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05/22/06 FOX News Poll: Clinton-McCain 2008 Race Would Be Nail-Biter

If the 2008 presidential race were between Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican John McCain, the country could be in for another nail-biter. The next presidential election may be more than two years away, but the politicking has already started and many consider Clinton and McCain the front-runners for their respective political parties.

In the latest FOX News national registered voter poll, McCain bests Clinton by a slim 4-percentage point margin — 46 percent to 42 percent — in a hypothetical matchup. Given the poll’s 3-point margin of error, that means this race could go either way.

The Republican edge widens outside the error margin when the choices are between Clinton (40 percent) and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (49 percent).

Women are slightly more likely to favor Clinton over McCain (by 4 percentage points), though they give the edge to Giuliani (by 4 points). Self-identified independents are somewhat more likely to say they would vote for McCain (by 8 points) and for Giuliani (by 9 points) than for Clinton.

“The nation has witnessed two very close elections in a row, and right now it looks like a third may be shaping up,” Opinion Dynamics Chairman John Gorman said.

“Of course, the last two times the Democrats took the office, the winner was an obscure Southern governor who wasn’t even on the radar screen at this point in the election cycle. So speculation is fun at this point but hardly predictive.”

Opinion Dynamics Corp. conducted the national telephone poll of 900 registered voters for FOX News from May 16 to May 18. The poll has a 3-point error margin.

Clinton beats one Republican challenger tested. For fun, the poll asked voters to pick between Sen. Clinton and Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and, if the election were held today, Clinton would top President Bush’s brother handily: 51 percent to 35 percent.

Overall, only a handful of voters think Jeb Bush would make a good president. About one in five (22 percent) think the governor would make a good choice and 57 percent disagree. As Jeb Bush is relatively unknown to many Americans, it’s a safe bet that much of the reaction is based on his last name and Bush fatigue.

Among Republicans, 43 percent think Jeb Bush would make a good president, 26 percent disagree and almost a third (31 percent) say they are unsure. Fully 81 percent of Democrats and 61 percent of independents do not think he would be a good choice.

“These results have almost nothing to do with Jeb Bush personally,” Gorman said. “Most Americans know little about him or the administration he has run in Florida. The negative reaction flows from his brother’s current low approval ratings and, most probably, from a natural aversion to too long a ‘dynasty’ in American politics.”

The poll also included former Vice President Al Gore as a possible Democratic contender. Giuliani tops Gore by double-digits (50 percent to 37 percent), as does McCain (48 percent to 36 percent). The results are the opposite when the matchup is against Jeb Bush, with Gore coming out on top by 17 percentage points.

Favorable Ratings

Likeability is seen as an important quality. The poll asked voters whether they have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of several current and former candidates and finds that Giuliani has the best net positive rating.

Almost two-thirds (64 percent) of Americans have a favorable opinion of Giuliani and 15 percent unfavorable, giving him a 49-point net positive rating.

That puts him ahead of first lady Laura Bush, who has a 40-point positive (64 percent favorable, 24 percent unfavorable); and well ahead of the others, including McCain, who has a 24-point positive rating (49 percent favorable, 25 percent unfavorable); former President Bill Clinton, who has a 23-point positive (58 percent favorable, 35 percent unfavorable); and Hillary Clinton, who has an 8-point positive (50 percent favorable, 42 percent unfavorable).

Others included in the poll have a net negative rating. Slightly more voters have an unfavorable than a favorable view of Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry (41 percent favorable, 44 percent unfavorable); Gore (41 percent favorable, 45 percent unfavorable); George W. Bush (40 percent favorable, 55 percent unfavorable); and Jeb Bush (28 percent favorable, 45 percent unfavorable, 27 percent unsure).

PDF: Click here for full poll results.