- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 23, 2007

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton has built double-digit leads over her chief rivals for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination in four of the five major party preference contests in January.

With three months to go before the start of the caucus and primary season, Mrs. Clinton has pulled away from her top challengers in all but the Jan. 14 Iowa caucuses, where she leads by a slim 2.6 percent average in the latest polls.

If her large leads hold up in later contests, it would send her into the “Super Duper Tuesday” battles on Feb. 5 with significant momentum and a strong chance to capture the bulk of the delegates at stake in more than 20 states.

According to polling averages tracked by the Real Clear Politics Web site, the New York senator now leads in the Jan. 15 Michigan primary by 16 percent, the Jan. 22 New Hampshire primary by 20.5 percent, the South Carolina primary by 11.3 percent and the Florida primary by 25 percent. The South Carolina and Florida primaries are Jan. 29.

Mrs. Clinton’s near-prohibitive leads in the January contests are reflected in her double-digit advantage in the national voter surveys as measured by the Gallup Poll.

“Gallup’s latest poll finds Hillary Clinton maintaining the better-than-20-percentage-point lead for the Democratic Party’s 2008 presidential nomination that she has enjoyed since early August,” the polling organization reported late last week.

A compilation of all the major national polls conducted this month gave Mrs. Clinton an average spread of 18.8 percent over her three top rivals, according to Real Clear Politics. A breakdown of the polling data showed that among Democrats, she now leads with an average of 41.8 percent, followed by Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois with 23 percent, former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina with 14.3 percent and Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico with 3.7 percent.

Despite Mrs. Clinton’s substantial leads in the early primaries, as well as in the national rankings, election analysts have begun questioning whether she can win the general election because of the very high negative feelings she generates.

“ ’Can Hillary Clinton win?’ That is one of the most common questions in American politics these days,” veteran campaign analyst Charlie Cook wrote in last week’s National Journal.

“Clinton, the Democratic front-runner, is widely derided as ‘too polarizing,’ ” Mr. Cook said.

In trial heats against Republican front-runners, Mrs. Clinton has narrowly edged out former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani in some matchups, but he has led her in others.

A recent CNN/Opinion Research poll showed Mrs. Clinton with a 13-point lead over former Sen. Fred Thompson of Tennessee, and a four-point lead over Mr. Giuliani, for a statistical tie.

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