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Republican Nomination Most Open in Decades

A new Washington Post-ABC News poll finds former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani, left, with the weakest national support for a Republican front-runner this late in a presidential race since 1979. Trailing him, in order from right to left, are Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), former senator Fred Thompson (Tenn.) and former governor Mitt Romney (Mass.).
A new Washington Post-ABC News poll finds former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani, left, with the weakest national support for a Republican front-runner this late in a presidential race since 1979. Trailing him, in order from right to left, are Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), former senator Fred Thompson (Tenn.) and former governor Mitt Romney (Mass.). (By Phillippe Diederich -- Getty Images)

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Clinton has held generally large double-digit leads in Post-ABC News national polls throughout the campaign, but the competition appears tighter in Iowa. There, polls of likely caucus-goers indicate a tight three-way contest for delegates among Clinton, Obama and Edwards.

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Clinton's national front-runner status is built on her advantages on several key attributes, all of which may yield dividends in the state-by-state contests.

Three-quarters of Democrats view Clinton favorably, which is somewhat higher than the results for Obama (67 percent) or Edwards (62 percent). More than twice as many have a "strongly" positive impression of Clinton as have that view of Edwards. And most of those who would back Clinton in their state's primary or caucus, "strongly" support her.

A majority of Democrats see Clinton as the strongest leader of the three top candidates, and she has the edge over Obama and Edwards as being best on the issues and the closest representative of the party's core values. Notably, given the increasingly sharp debate among the candidates over foreign policy, Clinton is seen as the best able to handle the situations in Iraq and involving Iran, by margins of better than 2 to 1.

She has no significant advantage on honesty, however, and both Obama and Edwards have begun to criticize her for a lack of candor on where she stands on a number of key issues. About a third, 34 percent, said Clinton is their party's most honest and trustworthy candidate, but nearly as many, 29 percent, said so of Obama. Eighteen percent said Edwards is tops on this key attribute.

A large and growing lead on "electability" also propels Clinton's candidacy. More than six in 10 Democrats now see her as the candidate who has the best shot at winning next November -- up 19 points from June.

The poll was conducted by telephone Oct. 29 to Nov. 1 among a random national sample of 1,131 adults, including 598 Democrats and independents who lean toward the Democratic Party and 436 Republicans and GOP-leaning independents. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus four percentage points for the Democratic sample and five points for the Republican sample.

Polling analyst Jennifer Agiesta contributed to this report.


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