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Poll: New Hampshire win rockets McCain to front-runner status

  • Story Highlights
  • Republican John McCain jumps 21 points from last poll, now at 34 percent
  • Mike Huckabee, winner of Iowa GOP caucuses, in second with 21 percent
  • Rudy Giuliani, former Republican front-runner, now in third with 18 percent
  • Hillary Clinton up 9 points from previous poll, now at 49 percent
  • Next Article in Politics »
By Paul Steinhauser
CNN Deputy Political Director
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- John McCain's victory in Tuesday's New Hampshire primary appears to be paying off.

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Sen. John McCain wins 34 percent of registered Republicans in a CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll.

The senator from Arizona is the front-runner in the battle for the Republican presidential nomination, according to the first national poll taken after the New Hampshire primary.

McCain has the support of 34 percent of registered Republicans in a CNN/Opinion Research Corp. survey out Friday. That's a 21-point jump from the last CNN/Opinion Research poll, taken in December, well before the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary earlier this month.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who won the Iowa Republican caucuses, is in second place in the new survey, with 21 percent of those registered Republicans polled supporting him for the GOP nomination. Check out the poll »

Rudy Giuliani follows with 18 percent, a drop of six points from the December poll, when the former New York City mayor was the front-runner.

"Only McCain gained support among Republicans nationally. McCain's now the clear Republican front-runner," said Bill Schneider, CNN senior political analyst.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is in fourth place, with the backing of 14 percent of registered Republicans, with former Sen. Fred Thompson of Tennessee at 6 percent, Rep. Ron Paul of Texas at 5 percent, and Rep. Duncan Hunter of California at 1 percent.

These results have a sampling error of plus or minus 5 percentage points.

"Giuliani has lost the 'inevitability factor.' Back in October, half of all Republicans nationwide said that he was most likely to win the nomination. Now that is down to 15 percent. McCain is now seen as the most likely GOP nominee -- 45 percent feel that way about him, up from 13 percent in October," said CNN polling director Keating Holland.

Early victories appear to have boosted Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York and Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois in the Democratic nomination battle, with Clinton the choice of nearly half of registered Democrats nationwide.

Clinton is at 49 percent in the new poll, up nine points from the December survey, with Obama at 36 percent, which is a six-point gain from his December standing.

Obama finished first in Iowa's Democratic caucuses. Clinton won in New Hampshire.

"Clinton has re-established herself as the Democratic front-runner, especially among Democratic women," Schneider said.

Former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina is a distant third, at 12 percent, with Rep. Dennis Kucinich at 1 percent. The sampling error for the Democratic results is plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.

More than half of registered Democrats polled consider Clinton most likely to win the Democratic nomination.

"Clinton is also seen by Democrats nationwide as more likely to have a clear plan for the economy, Iraq and health care. A potential Clinton victory also generates more enthusiasm among Democrats than the prospects of Obama winning the party's nod," Holland said.

There's also another front-runner, and that's the economy.

Thirty-five percent of registered voters polled said the economy is the most important issue when it comes to their vote for president. That's up 6 points from December. Sixty-one percent of those questioned said the economy is in a recession, up 4 points from December and up 15 points since October.

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Iraq is in second place as the most important issue, at 25 percent, followed by health care, immigration and terrorism.

The poll was conducted by telephone on January 9 and 10. One-thousand-thirty-three adult Americans were questioned, including 840 registered voters, 443 registered Democrats and 397 registered Republicans. The sampling error for the entire survey is plus or minus 3 percentage points. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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