SAN FRANCISCO Arizona Sen. John McCain rose to the top of Republican presidential pack in California, with former front-runner Rudy Giuliani's popularity down sharply, according to the latest Field Poll released on Wednesday.
Former New York City Mayor Giuliani had led the poll in the nation's most populous state as recently as last month with 25 percent support, but saw his standing drop to 11 percent, tied for third with former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.
In the Field Poll of 377 likely Republican voters, 22 percent said they favored McCain and 18 percent preferred former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
The poll, taken January 14-20, had a sampling error of plus or minus 5.2 percentage points.
Giuliani, who gained national prominence after the September 11 attacks, had led in national polls before the state-by-state contests that began this month to choose a Republican presidential nominee for the November election.
He has fared poorly in the early contests, preferring to concentrate on later primaries in states such as Florida, New York and California.
California holds its primary on February 5, although some state voters have already begun to cast their ballots by mail. The state is the biggest prize in the national nominating process for both Republicans and Democrats.
In the Field Poll, McCain, who has done well in the early primaries, moved up from fourth place in December to first place in California. His support reflected a favorable image rating from 68 percent of those sampled.
Those polled said illegal immigration, terrorism, the war in Iraq and the economy were the most important issues in deciding their vote.
(Reporting by Adam Tanner; Editing by Eric Beech)