By Susan Page, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON — New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton has regained a double-digit lead over Illinois Sen. Barack Obama in the USA TODAY/Gallup Poll two weeks after the survey found the Democratic presidential rivals essentially tied.
Among Republicans, former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani remains ahead, but former Tennessee senator Fred Thompson, who hasn’t formally entered the race, for the first time edges into second place over Arizona Sen. John McCain.
The results show a Republican race that could be roiled by Thompson, who is targeting conservatives unsatisfied with their choices in the field so far. He is costing Giuliani most: A third of Thompson’s supporters say they would otherwise back the former mayor.
The Democratic contest generally has been stable, though a USA TODAY Poll taken June 1-3 had shown Obama 1 percentage point ahead of Clinton, 30%-29%. In the new survey, Clinton leads Obama 33%-21% if former vice president Al Gore — who has neither entered the race nor ruled it out — is included among the candidates. She leads by 39%-26% if Gore isn’t included. Former North Carolina senator John Edwards is then third at 13%.
“There have been 500 stories and 500 polls, but actually little has changed in this race,” says Mark Penn, Clinton’s chief strategist. “She has a consistently strong lead that is holding up over time.” The new poll includes 334 Democrats and 182 independents who lean Democratic. Penn says including independents contributes to a survey’s volatility because those voters are less committed to a candidate as well as less likely to vote in party primaries.