Clinton holds narrow Nevada lead on Obama: poll

WASHINGTON Fri Jan 18, 2008 6:52pm EST

1 of 25. Michelle Obama greets her husband, Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama, on stage at a town hall event in Reno, Nevada, January 18, 2008. The Nevada caucuses will be held January 19.

Credit: Reuters/Max Whittaker

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Democrat Hillary Clinton holds a narrow 5-point lead on rival Barack Obama in Nevada on the eve of the state's presidential nominating contest, according to a Reuters/C-SPAN/Zogby poll released on Friday.

Clinton, a New York senator and former first lady, led Obama, an Illinois senator, by 42 percent to 37 percent in the rolling tracking poll. Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards was a distant third with 12 percent.

In South Carolina, where Republicans vote on Saturday, Arizona Sen. John McCain maintained a steady 7-point edge on former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, 29 percent to 22 percent, although rival and Mitt Romney gained three points overnight to climb into third place at 15 percent.

Both polls had a margin of error of 3.4 percentage points.

Nevada and South Carolina are the next battlegrounds in the race to choose candidates for November's election to succeed President George W. Bush, with the winners in each state hoping to pick up some momentum as the calendar accelerates to February 5 contests in 22 states.

So far, no candidate in either party has been able to build up any real steam in a chaotic race that has seen five winners in the first five major state contests.

Obama and Clinton split the first two Democratic battles and have been running close in polls in Nevada, where turnout is uncertain. Nevada's Democratic nominating contest in 2004 drew just 9,000 participants, and no one is sure how many will turn out this time.

"This is a very competitive race, but it will depend on organization," pollster John Zogby said. "This is a caucus without much history to go on, so we have to see who can do the best job of turning out their vote."

The poll showed Clinton, who would be the first woman U.S. president, led Obama among women, whites, Hispanics, conservatives, older voters and among voters in union households. Obama, who would be the first black U.S. president, led easily among blacks and younger voters.

CASINO VOTING

The two Democrats have clashed in the past week over a plan to allow voting in casino hotels on the Las Vegas Strip, approved by a federal judge on Thursday, and over Clinton's comments on race that were seen by some as a slight on civil rights leader Martin Luther King.

Republicans also hold a contest in Nevada on Saturday in a race that has drawn less attention from the media and candidates. The Republican race in Nevada was not polled by Zogby.

The Republican presidential contenders have focused on South Carolina, the first primary in the South. McCain, an Arizona senator who won New Hampshire, hopes to rebound from his loss in Michigan on Tuesday.

McCain finished second there to Romney, a former Massachusetts governor who promised to revive the state's ailing manufacturing base. Romney's overnight rise was the first sign of a bounce from his Michigan win, Zogby said.

"There is some movement afoot," he said. In the most recent day of polling, Romney had reached 19 percent, he said.

Huckabee, a Baptist minister who won Iowa and is hoping to make inroads with the state's big bloc of evangelical voters, still led among "born-again" voters and those who say they are "very" conservative.

But McCain held a clear edge among independents, Republicans, Democrats, liberals, moderates and older voters.

Former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson was fourth with 13 percent, Texas Rep. Ron Paul was at 4 percent and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, still waiting to make his first foray into the race on January 29 in Florida, was at 2 percent.

About 9 percent of Republican voters were unsure who they would support, with about 5 percent of Democrats uncertain.

The rolling tracking polls of 815 likely Republican voters in South Carolina and 814 likely Democratic voters in Nevada were taken Tuesday through Thursday and will continue one more day.

In a rolling poll, the most recent day's results are added while the oldest day's results are dropped in order to track changing momentum.

(Editing by Todd Eastham)

(For more about the U.S. political campaign, visit Reuters "Tales from the Trail: 2008" online at blogs.reuters.com/trail08/)

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