Local Politics

Poll: Clinton narrows gap on Obama

Political observers say Hillary Clinton can claim momentum without winning North Carolina if she can keep it close in next week's primary.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Hillary Clinton has cut into Barack Obama's sizable lead in North Carolina in recent weeks but still trails by double digits with a week left until the state's primary, according to a new WRAL News poll.

Polling firm Rasmussen Reports surveyed 774 likely Democratic voters statewide Monday, finding Obama's 23-point lead in early April has been whittled to 51 to 37 percent over Clinton. The poll has a margin of error of 4 percentage points.

Clinton picked up a key endorsement Tuesday morning, when Gov. Mike Easley threw his support behind her candidacy.

"Hillary Clinton is ready to deliver. That's the difference. She's ready to deliver today, immediately," Easley said.

Easley became the second super-delegate from North Carolina to endorse Clinton. Six have backed Obama, and nine others remain uncommitted.

Peace College political science professor David McLennan said the endorsement might mean more nationally than locally.

"It really, I think, is a symbol that the race may not be over just yet," McLennan said.

Meanwhile, Obama remained on the defensive over his relationship with his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

Wright has been criticized for comments against President George W. Bush and the Iraq War, and Obama has denounced the comments as divisive. In recent days, Wright accused the U.S. government of creating HIV to commit genocide against minorities.

"Rev. Wright doesn't speak for me. He doesn't speak for my campaign. I cannot stop him from making these outrageous comments," Obama said Tuesday. "When I say I find these comments appalling, I mean it contradicts everything I'm about and who I am."

On the poll numbers, Democratic consultant Gary Pearce said the question becomes whethern Obama finish the game and win in November.

"There's no way she can catch him unless some disaster happens," Pearce said. "(But) what that ultimately comes down to, as uncomfortable as it is for some people to talk about, is whether he's going to be able to attract enough white votes to win in the fall."

Reflecting national trends, Clinton leads among white women and older voters in North Carolina, while Obama leads among blacks and younger voters. Four-fifths of black voters favor Obama, while Clinton holds a 15-point lead among white voters, according to the poll.

Among white voters who earn less than $60,000 a year, Clinton leads by a 2-to-1 margin. Obama leads among white voters who earn more than $75,000 a year, according to the poll.

The candidates' frequent visits to the state in recent weeks have taken off a bit of their shine for voters. Their favorable ratings are each down 4 points from previous polls, although Obama still has a 71percent favorable rating and Clinton is viewed favorably by 62 percent of likely voters, according to the poll.

Among likely Clinton voters, Obama is viewed favorably by 38 percent, while Clinton is viewed favorably by 41 percent of likely Obama voters, according to the poll.

WRAL and Mason-Dixon Polling & Research sponsored a survey of voters with a week remaining before the North Carolina primary. Tune in to WRAL News at 5 and 6 and to WRAL.com for the results.

  • Wednesday: Presidential and gubernatorial races
  • Thursday: Lieutenant governor race
  • Friday: U.S. Senate race


Cullen Browder, Reporter
Richard Adkins, Photographer
Matthew Burns, Web Editor

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