Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York is the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2004, now that former Vice President Al Gore says he will not run, according to a new Time/CNN poll released yesterday.
The survey of 400 registered Democrats and Democratic “leaners” found that three out of 10 or 30 percent would choose Mrs. Clinton as their party’s nominee for president if they were asked to vote today.
Her nearest rivals, Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts and Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut, each received the support of 13 percent of the Democrats polled.
The questions about Democratic presidential prospects were part of a total survey of more than 1,000 adults, conducted by Harris Interactive on Dec. 17 and Dec. 18. The margin of error for the total sample was 3.1 percentage points.
In an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sept. 15, Mrs. Clinton said she would “absolutely not” accept the Democratic nomination for president or vice president in 2004.
In a statement released yesterday, Philippe Reines, Mrs. Clinton’s press secretary, said: “Nothing has changed. As she has said repeatedly, Senator Clinton’s going to serve out her six-year Senate term.” Mrs. Clinton’s term runs through 2006.
The Time/CNN poll was the second major survey this week to indicate Mrs. Clinton would be the favorite among Democrats if she decided to become a presidential contender.
A USA Today/CNN/Gallup Poll released Thursday found that when she was included among a list of possible Democratic presidential candidates, Mrs. Clinton was the clear front-runner, with 41 percent support. She was followed by Mr. Kerry, with 15 percent, and Mr. Lieberman, with 14 percent.
Mr. Lieberman and Mr. Kerry fared much better in the USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll of Democrats and “Democratic leaners” when Mrs. Clinton was excluded. When asked who the respondents would most likely support as the Democratic nominee for president in 2004, 24 percent of respondents said Mr. Lieberman. Twenty-one percent said they favored Mr. Kerry. They were the two top picks.
Yesterday’s Time/CNN poll also rated the popularity of various Democratic presidential contenders without Mrs. Clinton’s name on the list. It found that if she does not run, no one candidate takes her place at the front of the pack.
When the former first lady was deleted from the survey, Democrats supported Mr. Kerry and Mr. Lieberman equally. But their support for those two candidates is “mild at best, 16 percent for each,” Time said in a statement yesterday in which it discussed the survey results.
Rep. Richard A. Gephardt, Missouri Democrat and the former House minority leader, ranked third in the Time/CNN poll. He received 9 percent of the vote, when up against Mrs. Clinton and 10 percent when she was not included in the survey.
Outgoing Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, ranked fourth. In a contest including Mrs. Clinton, he got 7 percent support. Without her, his support rose to 9 percent.
Sen. John Edwards, North Carolina Democrat, got 4 percent support in the Time/CNN poll, if Mrs. Clinton was in the race. Without her, his support doubled to 8 percent.
Gov. Howard Dean of Vermont, the only Democrat who has officially filed as a presidential candidate for the 2004 election, received 2 percent support in the survey, regardless of whether Mrs. Clinton was listed as a candidate.
In the version of the poll that excluded Mrs. Clinton, 24 percent of respondents said they are not sure which person they would choose as the Democratic presidential nominee if the vote was held today. In the version that included Mrs. Clinton, 14 percent said they were undecided about whom they would support.