Clinton leads Obama, McCain in key matchups: poll

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Democratic presidential contender Hillary Clinton holds a 9-point lead over rival Barack Obama among likely Pennsylvania Democratic primary voters ahead of the state’s April 22 primary, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released on Wednesday.

Clinton, a New York senator who would be the first female president, leads the Illinois senator 50 percent to 41 percent, the poll found. She also runs better against the likely Republican nominee, Sen. John McCain, in Pennsylvania, Florida and Ohio -- all important swing states in the general election.

In a general election matchup in Florida, McCain closely trails Clinton 42 percent to 44 percent but McCain leads Obama, who would be the first black president, 46 percent to 37 percent, according to the poll.

“The difference between Clinton and Obama in Florida is the white vote,” said Peter Brown of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

In Ohio, Clinton has a 48 to 39 percent lead over McCain after months of too-close-to-call results, the poll found. In an Obama-McCain matchup, Obama gets 43 percent against 42 percent for McCain.

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In Pennsylvania, Clinton tops McCain 48 to 40 percent and Obama leads the Arizona senator 43 percent to 39 percent.

Among Pennsylvania Democrats, Clinton leads 54 to 37 percent with women and ties Obama with men at 46 percent support.

The primary vote between Clinton and Obama splits sharply along racial lines.

Clinton leads 59 to 34 percent among white Pennsylvania likely primary voters while Obama leads 73 to 11 percent among black Democrats, the poll found.

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Roughly 44 percent of people in all three states said the economy was the most important issue in their vote, while about a quarter of respondents said the war in Iraq is most important.

“The economic concerns of voters make Ohio a tougher challenge for McCain than has traditionally been the case for Republicans, who have never won the White House without carrying Ohio,” Brown said. “But Obama’s weakness among white men is an indication that he has not yet closed the sale among the lunch bucket brigade.”

The poll was conducted March 24 through 31. Quinnipiac surveyed 1,135 Florida voters with a margin of error of plus or minus 2.9 percent; 1,238 Ohio voters with a margin of error of plus or minus 2.8 percent; 3,484 Pennsylvania voters with a margin of error of plus or minus 1.7 percent including 1,549 Democratic likely voters with a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 percent.

Reporting by Joanne Allen; Editing by Eric Walsh