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A *USA Today*/Gallup poll released today shows strengths and weaknesses among the leading Republican and Democratic presidential candidates. The poll, conducted Jan. 10-13, compared the candidates in potential general election contests, matching McCain and Huckabee against Clinton and Obama in hypothetical top-of-the-ticket ballots.

Among likely voters, McCain out-polls both Clinton and Obama with independents and is competitive with them among self-identified moderates. He holds a 4 percentage point lead over Obama with independents, but that gap expands to 12 when he is matched up against Clinton.

The data show that both Clinton and Obama fare better among women than men. Both of the Democratic candidates in this poll also win more support from women than do the Republican candidates, although Obama holds only a slight 1 percentage point edge over McCain. Clinton has a 7 percentage point lead over McCain from likely women voters and a 13 percentage point lead against Huckabee among the same group.

The Democratic candidates lead among likely voters aged 18-34, but McCain has a consistent edge over both Clinton and Obama for voters aged 35-54 as well as 55 and older. Huckabee trails both Democratic candidates across all age groups, with the largest gap – 21 percentage points – against Obama in the 18-34 group.

For results based on the sample of 1,598 likely voters, the maximum margin of sampling error is ‘3 percentage points. Margins of error for the subgroups will be larger.

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