Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y. is seen on a computer monitor at the back of the hall during the Democratic presidential primary debate hosted by Saint Anselm College in Manchester, N.H., Sunday, June 3, 2007. ——— AP Photo / Charles Krupa
Coming off the first debate of the New Hampshire primary season, Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York has seen her support grow in the state, according to a recently released statewide poll.
In the Franklin Pierce College/WBZ poll of 424 likely Democratic presidential primary voters, Clinton received 38 percent of the vote while Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois ran second with 16 percent. Clinton's margin of victory marked a jump of 15 points over a March poll that showed Clinton holding 32 percent of the vote to Obama's 25 percent. The poll has a 4.8 percent margin of error.
But in one national poll, the USA Today/Gallup Poll released Tuesday, Clinton and Obama were in a dead heat — the only national poll not showing Clinton with a lead.
Nick Clemons, Clinton's state campaign director, downplayed the results of the polls this early in the election cycle, but he said the "snapshot" of her most recent performance is a reflection of Clinton's extensive effort in the state and her ability to articulate her messages and connect with voters.
"It's very much a vote of confidence in her overall leadership," said Clemons about Clinton, who has made eight campaign trips to the state this year.
The Franklin Pierce/WBZ poll, conducted the day after the Democrats' Sunday night debate in Manchester, also showed that voters believe Clinton won the debate by according to 45 percent of those polled, while 8 percent said Obama won the debate.
A spokesman for Obama said voters in the state are still attracted to his message to shake up the political status quo.
"Polls will go up and down, but the grass-roots enthusiasm for Senator Obama has been constant," said Reid Cherlin. "In May, we had more than 550 people come out in the rain to participate in our first door-to-door canvass, and the following weekend we had 1,500 people come out to see Senator Obama in Conway and more than 5,000 people for a rally in Hanover. Everywhere we go, we're overwhelmed by how eager people are to get involved with this movement for change."
Pollster Kelly Myers, a senior fellow at Franklin Pierce College, said the results of the poll showed that Clinton's "support was already growing throughout the state. Her (debate) performance was a validation of what voters were already expecting."
A local voter who recently decided to support Clinton believes she will be a strong candidate who will "take the Democrats to victory."
"My priority is to get a Democrat in the White House," said Stephen Clark of Rye. "... The Republicans want to make this a national security election, and she always projects strength and confidence on all national security issues."
Former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina saw his poll support in the Granite State drop to 13 percent, down from 16 percent in March. Besides Clinton, the only candidates to see their campaigns gain support were Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico, who rose from 3 percent in March to 8 percent; and Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware, following what voters perceived to be a strong debate performance, jumped to 4 percent from 1 percent in March. Only 10 percent of the Democratic voters in this poll said they were undecided.
While Myers said the results "suggest that an ever-increasing number of Democratic voters believe in the inevitability of (Clinton's) nomination," he cautioned that there was still much campaigning left — and there was room for considerable movement from the other challengers. In particular, voters still had high favorability ratings for Edwards and Obama.
Myers said a poll would be conducted following the Republican debate Tuesday night.