A Diageo/Hotline national poll of expected primary voters says that John McCain has become a clear frontrunner in the Republican race by jumping 22 points since last month and leading the field with 32 percent to Mike Huckabee’s 17 percent and Mitt Romney’s 15 percent. Rudy Giuliani continued the fade he has shown in most polls by slipping 9 points to 12 percent while Fred Thompson has 7 percent. The big “however” in this poll, which has a margin of error of 6 percent on the GOP side, is that it was conducted Jan. 10-12 – before Romney won a reprieve in Michigan. And South Carolina could also have the potential to change some of the campaign dynamics. The poll also found McCain made a strong showing in two other areas: that a huge majority of Republicans surveyed believe he will be the eventual nominee, and a significant number think he is most electable in November. The grain of salt is that 59 percent of likely Republican primary voters say they may change their minds before their states weigh in.
On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are in a statistical dead heat (hope you’re not getting tired of that phrase) at 38 percent for Clinton and 35 percent for Obama. The margin of error is 5 percent. John Edwards polled 13 percent. The survey also finds less fluidity in the race than the Republicans in terms of the number of voters who said they might change their minds before their primary election days.