- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 20, 2008

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama defeated rival Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton by more than 50 percentage points in a new straw poll of liberal activists.

Seventy-two percent of those polled said they would like to see Mr. Obama of Illinois become the party’s nominee for president, while 16 percent said they would rather see Mrs. Clinton of New York get the nod. Twelve percent of respondents said they would be satisfied with either Mr. Obama or Mrs. Clinton in the general election against likely Republican nominee Sen. John McCain.

The results were released yesterday at the Take Back America conference in Washington, where about 2,000 activists met this week to discuss progressive policy issues and voter mobilization strategy. Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton spoke at the conference last year but both declined to attend this year.

Mr. Obama won a similar straw poll at the same conference last year, when he garnered 29 percent of voters, compared with former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards’ 26 percent and Mrs. Clinton’s 17 percent.

“It looks like a lot of Edwards” support has gone towards Barack,” said Anna Greenberg, senior vice president of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, which conducted the poll with Politico.com.

The poll surveyed 413 respondents March 17-19.

A striking 41 percent of respondents said they would be “dissatisfied” if Mrs. Clinton was the nominee, compared with just 8 percent of straw poll voters who said they would be “dissatisfied” with Mr. Obama.

Miss Greenberg said such a trend would be troubling for Mrs. Clinton if she wins her party”s nomination and could potentially disillusion new voters who had been attracted to the race by Mr. Obama.

“People that Obama brought into the process are loyal to him and not to the Democratic Party,” she said.

Respondents identified “economy and jobs” as their top issues of concern, a shift from last year”s results in which the war in Iraq topped the list.

“We can see an opportunity for Clinton with fueled interest in the economy,” said Mike Allen, chief political correspondent for Politico.com, who presented the findings with Miss Greenberg at the conference spearheaded by the Campaign for America”s Future.

Mr. Allen said Mrs. Clinton”s message of economic populism has helped her in recent primaries and could in upcoming ones among lower-income and less-educated voting blocs, which can bear the greatest immediate brunt of a sluggish economy.

The poll also asked respondents about what they thought about the Democratic primaries in Florida and Michigan, two states where the party stripped delegates of seats at the national convention as punishment for moving up their primaries. Mrs. Clinton won both contests.

Among the Obama supporters, 52 percent said the new contests should be held in those states to allow the delegates to be seated; 23 percent said the delegates should not be seated and just 6 percent said the Democratic Party should honor the original results.

Of those who support Mrs. Clinton, 45 percent said the results should be honored, 41 percent said new contests should be held and 5 percent said the two states should refuse to seat the delegates.