McCain fights back in primary race

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The Independent US

John McCain has closed the gap with long-time front-runner Mitt Romney among Republican presidential contenders in the critical New Hampshire primary contest, while Barack Obama has inched ahead of Hillary Rodham Clinton, according to a new Boston Globe poll released yesterday.

Among Republicans, Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, and McCain, the Arizona senator, are now nearly in a dead heat. Romney led with 28 percent, with McCain close behind with 25 percent.

A Globe poll last month had McCain in third place with 17 percent of likely Republican primary voters favoring him compared to Romney's 32 percent.

McCain's surge knocked former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani into third place in the latest poll with 14 percent. Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee had 10 percent.

On the Democratic side, Obama, the Illinois senator, had 30 percent, with Clinton, the New York senator and former first lady, at 28 percent. Former North Carolina senator John Edwards trailed with 14 percent, and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson had seven percent.

A month ago, Clinton held the lead with 35 percent of likely Democratic primary voters saying they favored her, compared to 21 percent for Obama.

The presidential nomination contest kicks off on Jan. 3 with the Iowa caucuses, followed five days later by the New Hampshire primary. These critical early tests provide momentum for the top finishers into the next round of primaries, while trimming down the field of candidates. Voters in each state begin the process of selecting delegates to the parties' national presidential nominating convention later in the summer.

When asked which candidate has the best chance of beating the Republican nominee, 40 percent of New Hampshire Democratic voters said Clinton and 29 percent said Obama, a much narrower gap than a month ago. When Republican voters were asked which candidate has the best chance of beating the Democratic nominee, Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, topped the list with 34 percent, followed by Giuliani with 28 percent and McCain with 10 percent.

The survey of 400 Democratic and 404 Republican likely primary voters was conducted for The Boston Globe by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center Dec. 16-20. It has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4.9 percentage points.