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Gallup Daily: Obama, Clinton Equally Matched vs. McCain

Democratic race: Obama 48%, Clinton 46%

PRINCETON, NJ -- Although the November presidential election is still eight months away, the results of Gallup Poll Daily tracking shows that if that election were held today, the outcome would be quite tight, with both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton running within two percentage points of Republican nominee John McCain.

These results are based on interviews with 4,355 registered voters nationwide between March 8 and March 12. All voters were asked their preferences in both pairings: McCain vs. Obama and McCain vs. Clinton, with the order of the pairings randomly rotated across the sample.

There are two notable findings in these data. First, despite the fact that the Democratic Party, in a generic sense, is better positioned than the Republican Party at this point in time, the Republican nominee is running neck and neck with the two possible Democratic nominees. Second, despite continuing focus on the relative electability of Obama versus Clinton , there is no difference in the way either stacks up against McCain.

It is possible that the Democrats are handicapped to a degree by the fact that the final nominee has not been determined, and that the Democratic candidate's strength against McCain will increase once the Democratic nominee is determined.

The preferences for that nominee among Democrats nationally are very close.

The latest Gallup Poll Daily tracking update on Democratic nomination preferences, based on March 10-12 polling, shows 48% of national Democratic voters favoring Obama and 46% Clinton. There was no sign in Gallup's Wednesday night interviewing that Obama picked up any major surge in support nationally as a result of his strong win in the Mississippi primary on Tuesday. -- Frank Newport

Methodology: Gallup is interviewing no fewer than 1,000 U.S. adults nationwide each day during 2008.

The general election results are based on combined data from March 8-12, 2008. For results based on this sample of 4,355 registered voters, the maximum margin of sampling error is ±2 percentage points.

The Democratic nomination results are based on combined data from March 10-12, 2008. For results based on this sample of 1,245 Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters, the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points.

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

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