ST. LOUIS — Sens. John McCain and Hillary Clinton are the leading choices for Missourians who plan to vote in the Feb. 5 primary, according to new polls conducted for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and KMOV-TV.
The latest poll figures show Sen. Barack Obama lagging 13 points behind Clinton in Missouri. Research 2000 conducted two polls last week for the newspaper and television station.
A poll of 500 Republicans found McCain with 31 percent of the support, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee with 25 percent, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney with 21 percent, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani at 8 percent and Texas Rep. Ron Paul at 6 percent.
In a poll of likely Democratic primary voters who were asked how they would vote if the primary were “today,” Clinton was favored by 44 percent, Obama had 31 percent and former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards received 18 percent.
Eight percent of Republicans were undecided, compared with 6 percent of Democrats. That poll had a margin of error of 4.5 percentage points.
The other poll, with a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points, matched up candidates from both parties against each other.
Clinton and McCain were in a statistical tie head-to-head.
Barack supporters held an event at his campaign headquarters in St. Louis on Sunday afternoon, to rally support after Obama’s big win in the South Carolina primary Saturday.
“We have not as Democrats had anyone this inspiring since John F. Kennedy,” former Sen. Jean Carnahan said at the gathering.
Obama’s campaign said it would be in St. Louis on Saturday night, but additional details were not available.
Research 2000 chief Del Ali said Clinton’s two Democratic rivals, Obama and Edwards, fared better than Clinton in the polls head-to-head against McCain, both narrowly edging him out.
Obama would do better against the top three top Republicans by slightly larger margins than Clinton or Edwards in identical matchups.
The newspaper reported that’s because Obama and Edwards are a bit stronger than Clinton among nonaligned independent voters. Clinton and McCain are in a virtual tie because they snagged statistically equal shares of the independent voters.
It’s the independent voters who make the difference and determine who’s ahead, Ali said, noting their cooler opinion of Clinton could be a problem in November.
Ali said the poll’s biggest news is the sudden shift in fortunes among Republicans, compared with Research 2000’s last Missouri poll in November.
In that poll, Giuliani was in the lead, with support of about a quarter of the Republicans polled. In the new poll, Giuliani’s support fell to single digits.
“It’s astounding,” Ali said. “Giuliani has fallen off the face of the Earth. And there’s no question that voters are feeding off of McCain’s success in other states.”
Almost a third of Missourians polled in November rated the war in Iraq as their top issue. This time, their concerns were divided, with the economy nudging out the war. Health care was not far behind.