CHICAGO Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who has surged in support in other early-voting states, is tied with Rudy Giuliani for the lead among U.S. Republican presidential candidates in Illinois, a poll showed on Saturday.
The same poll by the Chicago Tribune and WGN-TV found likely Democratic voters favored Illinois U.S. Sen. Barack Obama by a 2-to-1 margin over U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York.
Illinois voters go to the polls on February 5 along with more than 20 other states. Neighboring Iowa on January 3 holds the first of the state-by-state contests to choose the Republican and Democratic presidential candidates who will compete in the November 2008 election.
Polls in Iowa show Huckabee making sweeping gains in the past month to take the lead among fellow Republicans.
The Illinois poll, posted on the Tribune's Web site, was taken December 9-13 among 500 likely Democratic and 500 likely Republican voters, and has an error margin of 4.4 percentage points.
Former New York Mayor Giuliani drew 23 percent of Republican voters while Huckabee won 21 percent, the poll showed. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney got 14 percent, followed U.S. Sen. John McCain and former U.S. Sen. Fred Thompson with 12 percent and 11 percent, respectively.
However, 42 percent said Giuliani had the best chance of winning the White House, compared with only 14 percent for Huckabee and 12 percent for Romney, according to the newspaper.
Obama was the choice of 50 percent of the Democratic voters from his home state, while Chicago-native Clinton drew 25 percent, the poll showed. Former U.S. Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina was a distant third at 7 percent.
However, respondents were not as confident about Obama's chances in a national race: 39 percent said Clinton had the best chance to win against a Republican, compared with Obama at 37 percent, the Tribune said.
(Reporting by Ben Klayman, editing by Eric Beech)