New Hampshire voters have more faith in Republican John McCain than in any of the other leading presidential candidates to handle campaign finance reform, but his reputation as a reform hawk has not yet spread nationwide, according to two new Washington Post/ABC News polls.
Asked which of the four leading presidential candidates they trusted most to handle the issue of campaign finance reform, 43 percent of likely New Hampshire primary voters chose McCain. Fewer than half as many (20 percent) chose Bill Bradley, the Democratic candidate who hopes to share the reformer's mantle and who appeared with McCain in New Hampshire this morning to promote the campaign finance issue.
Impressions nationally are far different, however. Among all Americans, only 19 percent chose McCain, compared to 34 percent who chose the better-known Texas Gov. George W. Bush and 24 percent who chose Democratic candidate Al Gore.
The surveys found strong support for a ban on so-called "soft money" donations to the parties: more than seven in 10 New Hampshire voters, and a similar percentage of the national public, support limits on big contributions to the parties.
But there's a catch for candidates pushing reform: the issue remains low on the list of voters' priorities. Asked to choose among reforming campaign fund raising and other high priority issues such as health care and the economy, only 7 percent of New Hampshire voters and 1 percent of Americans in general named campaign finance reform as the single most important issue to their vote.
McCain does well on the reform issue among likely New Hampshire voters of all partisan stripes: More Republicans and undeclared Independent voters trust him on the issue than trust Bush or Bradley. Even among Democrats, McCain garners the trust of 31 percent, compared to 34 percent who would trust Bradley and 23 percent who would trust Gore.