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Polls show Clinton, Giuliani in the lead

Helen Kennedy and David Saltonstall
New York Daily News

NEW YORK - Maybe it will be a Subway Series race for the White House after all.

Three new polls in key presidential battlegrounds show Republican Rudy Giuliani and Democratic Sen. Hillary Clinton leading their respective parties and running neck and neck in the 2008 race for the White House.

"Clearly at this point, it could very well be New Yorker against New Yorker," said Peter Brown of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, which conducted the surveys.

The polls show that if the election were today, a surging Giuliani would squeak by Clinton in Florida and Pennsylvania, 47 percent to 44 percent, while Clinton would edge Giuliani, 46 percent to 43 percent, in Ohio. All three states are major electoral prizes that have played critical roles in the past two presidential elections.

Arizona Sen. John McCain runs a close second to Giuliani among Republican voters in each state, while Clinton trounces all other Democratic hopefuls, including Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, by double digits.

The surveys come as Clinton, Obama and Giuliani are planning marquee moments Saturday to kick off a heavy campaign weekend - and hopefully steal the spotlight away from one another.

Clinton will be making her first trek to New Hampshire, home to the nation's first primary, where Saturday afternoon she'll be starring in her own, Oprah-like town hall meeting with Granite Staters.

At that moment, on the other side of the continent, Giuliani will be addressing the California Republican Party at a luncheon hosted by his new best friend, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

And right about then, Obama will be winging his way to Iowa - after having just announced his presidential candidacy in Springfield, Ill., birthplace of that other transcendent racial healer, Abraham Lincoln.

Whether voters will be paying any attention to this political Roller Derby - given that Election Day is still one year, eight months and 26 days away - remains an open question.

"The candidates will all be looking to get their 15 minutes," said Republican political consultant Roger Stone, "but most Americans will be tuning in to ESPN."

One person who will be missing from the campaign playing field this weekend is McCain, who will be in Germany attending a security conference.

The Arizona senator has seen his poll numbers inch down in recent weeks, largely because of his strong support for President Bush's troop surge into Iraq, experts say.

But others cautioned it was way too early to winnow the field, especially on the Republican side, where Giuliani's pro-choice, pro-gun control and pro-gay rights views could kill him among conservative Republican primary voters.

"I would not count out McCain," said Smith, "or a conservative to be named later in the Republican field."

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