A new Washington Post-ABC News poll shows Hillary Clinton and Rudolph Giuliani in the lead for their parties’ nominations. John McCain, who has lost considerable support among independent voters — possibly due to his plan to send more troops to Iraq — polled closely behind Giuliani.

Obviously it’s far too early to predict the race based on these results, but it’s worth noting that the GOP’s two front-runners (Newt polled a distant third) are less rabidly conservative than Republican primaries tend to accept. On the Democratic side, Barack Obama, despite tremendous national media attention, still polls behind Hillary, whose favorability numbers have increased during her years in the Senate.

Washington Post:

Clinton has a clear head start over other prospective Democratic candidates, with Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.), who only a month ago expressed interest in the 2008 race, running second and former senator John Edwards (N.C.), the party’s 2004 vice presidential nominee, in third.

Giuliani’s advantage in the Republican race appears more tenuous: He holds a narrow lead over Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), who is far ahead of Giuliani in organizing a presidential campaign. Former House speaker Newt Gingrich, who has not disclosed his plans for 2008, is well back in third.

Giuliani enjoys strongly favorable ratings, according to the survey, with two-thirds of Americans giving him positive marks. His leadership after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, earned him widespread praise.

Clinton remains the most polarizing politician among those considering a campaign for president in 2008, but her image has improved perceptibly during her six-year tenure in the Senate.

In contrast, McCain’s favorability ratings have declined over the past nine months. Among independents, his support has dropped 15 percentage points since March. Independents were his strongest supporters when he sought the Republican nomination in 2000. The decline comes at a time when McCain is calling for sending more troops to Iraq and has aggressively reached out to conservative groups and Christian conservative leaders.

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