NEW YORK – Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton now holds a slight lead over top Republican Rudy Giuliani for the first time in a hypothetical 2008 presidential matchup. In fact, to varying degrees, Clinton and fellow Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama beat every Republican candidate they are tested against in the latest FOX News Poll.
Opinion Dynamics Corp. conducted the national telephone poll of 900 registered voters for FOX News from July 17 to July 18. The poll has a 3-point error margin.
President Bush can do little to give Republicans a boost as his own ratings remain dismal. Today, 32 percent of Americans say they approve of the job Bush is doing and 61 percent disapprove. His current approval is just 1 point higher than his record-low 31 percent approval received last month (June 26-27).
Another hurdle for Republican hopefuls is the perception that Democrats in Congress (38 percent) are more optimistic than Republicans in Congress (31 percent) about the direction of the country.
In seven different head-to-head matchups, the poll shows the Democratic candidate tops the Republican. While this had been the case when Clinton was tested against Mitt Romney and Fred Thompson, this is the first time she has the advantage over Giuliani.
By a 5 percentage point margin, voters say they would back Clinton over Giuliani (46 percent to 41 percent) if the election were held today. Clinton also leads McCain by 3 points (45 percent to 42 percent), Romney by 15 points (50 percent to 35 percent) and the yet-to-announce Fred Thompson by 9 points (47 percent to 38 percent).
In addition, voters think Clinton would do a better job than Giuliani handling the situation in Iraq (45 percent to 40 percent).
Although Obama is still well behind Clinton in the race for the Democratic nomination, he also improves his performance against the Republicans in matchups this month and has a 4-point edge over Giuliani (45 percent to 41 percent). Moreover, Obama does better than Clinton against the other top Republican contenders; he leads McCain by 10 points (47 percent to 37 percent) and Thompson by 16 percent (48 percent to percent).
When voters are asked which one candidate they would pick to sit down and have a conversation with, 26 percent say Clinton, 18 percent Obama, 12 percent Giuliani, 8 percent McCain and 7 percent Thompson.
Among Democrats, 41 percent would pick Clinton and 26 percent Obama; no other candidate receives double-digits. Among Republicans, 25 percent say they would want to have a conversation with Giuliani, 15 percent McCain and 15 percent Thompson — and 12 percent of Republicans pick Clinton and 9 percent Obama.
And when asked which candidate they would definitely vote for under "almost any circumstances," once again Clinton tops the list with 17 percent compared to 10 percent for Obama, 9 percent Giuliani, 4 percent Al Gore, 4 percent McCain and 4 percent Thompson.
Democrats are much more definitive here, with 31 percent saying they would definitely vote for Clinton under almost any circumstances and 18 percent for Obama. For Republicans, 18 percent say they would definitely vote for Giuliani under almost any circumstances, 9 percent Thompson and 8 percent McCain.
The former first lady’s polarizing effect comes through in the poll, as Clinton also wins the flip side of the question with three times as many people saying they would "never vote for" her under any circumstances than say that about any other candidate.
Overall, half of voters think Giuliani has enough experience to be president, and 64 percent of Republicans think so.
For Obama, many voters either think he lacks the right experience or are unsure. Just over a third of voters (35 percent) think he has the right experience, including 47 percent of Democrats. In December, 22 percent of voters thought Obama had the right experience.
More voters think Clinton is basing her candidacy on her own experience (45 percent) than on her husband Bill’s experience (30 percent); 20 percent say both.
"It is clear that the current climate in the country is helping the Democrats," comments Opinion Dynamics CEO John Gorman. "While the Clinton legacy is a polarizing factor, the Bush presidency may be even more polarizing. Compared to Al Gore’s attempt to separate himself from Clinton in 2000, the eventual Republican nominee may face an even harder task."
Nomination Races Mostly Unchanged
Clinton continues to show her strength in the race for the Democratic nomination with a 16-point lead over Obama (41 percent and 25 percent, respectively). John Edwards receives the backing of 12 percent.
There is little change when Gore is included in the race: Clinton receives 39 percent, Obama 23 percent, Edwards 9 percent and Gore 9 percent.
Among Republicans, Giuliani remains the front-runner with 27 percent, followed by McCain and Thompson both at 16 percent and Romney at 9 percent. The number of undecided voters has bounced around quite a bit on the Republican side and is up this week to 20 percent from 11 percent in late June.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has little impact on the race. He receives the support of 2 percent, down from 8 percent previously, and putting him below former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee at 3 percent.
A final point on the Republican candidates — more voters think McCain (41 percent) would do a better job handling Iraq than Giuliani (32 percent). This is also true among Republicans: 45 percent think McCain would do a better job and 38 percent say Giuliani would.