NEW YORK – Democratic hopeful Hillary Clinton is at the top of voters’ minds. More people are familiar with Clinton and her positions on the issues than any other candidate, she is the most mentioned when people are asked who they would want in the White House in the event of a national crisis and she is also the candidate seen as having the most passion and enthusiasm to be president.
In addition, Clinton and Rudy Giuliani maintain their front-runner status, and both are seen as the best spokesperson for their respective parties.
In the Democratic contest, Clinton has a 17-percentage point advantage over Obama, leading 42 percent to 25 percent; Edwards comes in third with 13 percent.
Earlier in the month, Clinton had a 32-point edge over Obama (Oct. 9-10); the current results are more in line with where the race stood last month when Clinton was up by 19 points (Sept. 11-12).
“All the talk of Clinton’s ‘inevitability’ over the past few weeks may have pushed some Democrats away,” comments Opinion Dynamics CEO John Gorman. “With the first voting still more than two months away, voters want to have a say in the choice. They may end up voting for Clinton, but they don’t like hearing that she’s already won.”
The top three candidates remain the same on Republican side: Giuliani leads with 31 percent, followed by Fred Thompson at 17 percent and John McCain at 12 percent. Mitt Romney is currently at 7 percent and Mike Huckabee who captures 5 percent.
“The Huckabee ‘boomlet’ is still small,” comments Gorman. “But is significant that he is statistically tied with Romney who has spent oceans of money — much of it from his personal fortune — and doesn’t seem to be getting much traction.”
The national telephone poll was conducted for FOX News by Opinion Dynamics Corp. among 900 registered voters from Oct. 23-24. The poll has a 3-point error margin.
The candidates have been sparring about which one best speaks for their party, spurred, at least in part, by Romney’s recent comment that his experience and values represented the “Republican wing of the Republican Party.”
What do Republicans think? They say Giuliani (24 percent), McCain (18 percent) and Thompson (12 percent) are the top three candidates who speak “most clearly” for what their party believes, although 25 percent of Republicans are unsure. Romney (8 percent) comes in fourth ahead of Mike Huckabee (6 percent).
For Democrats, 43 percent Clinton best represents their party -- more than twice as many as think one of the other candidates does; one of five Democrats says Obama (20 percent) speaks most clearly for the party, followed by Edwards with 11 percent.
Fire in the Belly
More people think Clinton (35 percent) has “the most passion and enthusiasm for wanting to be president” than any other candidate from either party; she’s followed by Obama (18 percent) and Giuliani comes in third (10 percent). No other candidate receives mentions in the double digits.
Among Democrats, more see Clinton as having fire in the belly, as 44 percent say they think she has the most passion to be president, which is nearly twice as many as think Obama does (24 percent). Republicans also think Clinton (28 percent) has the most enthusiasm for the presidency, followed by Giuliani (18 percent) and then Obama (10 percent).
Handling a Crisis
If the United States were in a crisis, a 23 percent plurality of voters say they would want Clinton in the White House, followed by Giuliani at 19 percent, McCain at 11 percent and Obama at 9 percent.
Not surprisingly, Democrats are most likely to pick their front-runner and say they would want Clinton as president and Republicans are equally likely to pick their front-runner Giuliani. What about swing voters? Among self-described independents, 22 percent would want Clinton in the White House, 17 percent McCain and 12 percent Giuliani.
In the upcoming presidential election, voters say the top attributes in deciding their vote will be for the candidate to be “a strong leader” (24 percent), someone who “can bring about change” (22 percent) and someone who “shares my values” (11 percent).
For Republicans, voting for a strong leader (26 percent) is the most important trait, although several other qualities are also important in making a selection, including for the candidate to “share my values” (15 percent), “be personally moral” (15 percent), have “clear stands on the issues” (13 percent) and have the ability to “bring about change” (12 percent).
The priorities for Democrats are slightly different: “can bring about change” (25 percent) is first, narrowly edging “strong leader” (24 percent). These are followed by followed by “shares my values” (10 percent) and “has the right experience” (9 percent).