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Poll: Huckabee Leads, Dems Tied In S.C.

One month before the first votes are cast in South Carolina, a new CBS News poll finds Republican Mike Huckabee with a comfortable, if not overwhelming, lead over Mitt Romney, and a Democratic race that is even closer, with Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama in a dead heat.

Huckabee leads Romney by eight points among likely Republican primary voters, with Rudy Giuliani, Sen. John McCain and Fred Thompson virtually tied for third place.

On the Democratic side, Obama, at 35 percent, and Clinton, at 34 percent, lead among the state's likely primary voters, with John Edwards in third at 13 percent.

South Carolina's Republican primary is Jan. 19, 11 days after the New Hampshire primary. The state's Democratic primary will take place Jan. 26.

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Huckabee has 28 percent support in South Carolina, where he has been boosted by weekly churchgoers and white evangelicals, 33 percent of whom back the former Arkansas governor. Romney, who has 20 percent overall support, is the candidate whom likely Republican primary voters in the state say most shares their views on illegal immigration, their top issue. Giuliani trails at 12 percent, while McCain has 11 percent and Thompson has 10 percent.

More than 70 percent of likely GOP primary voters say it is too early to settle definitively on a candidate, however.

There is something of a "reverse gender gap" phenomenon among the state's likely Democratic primary voters, with Clinton, a New York senator and former first lady, leading among men and Obama, a senator from Illinois, leading among women. Black women are voting for Obama by a margin of more than two to one, while black men are voting for him by a smaller margin.

Complete Poll On Republican Race
Complete Poll On Democratic Race
The reason voters favor the two top candidates closely mirror the candidates' messages: While Clinton voters cite experience as the top reason they support their candidate, Obama voters cite the notion of change.

On the endorsement front, Bill Clinton seems to have a larger positive impact than Oprah Winfrey. Thirty-eight percent of likely Democratic primary voters in the state say the former president's involvement makes them more likely to back Hillary Clinton, while just 10 percent say Winfrey's involvement steers them toward Obama. Fifteen percent say Winfrey's involvement makes them less likely to support Obama.

Edwards is the candidate seen as caring most about problems in South Carolina, while Obama is seen as the most likely to bring about real change in Washington. Clinton is seen as having the best chance to win the presidency.

Nearly half of South Carolina's likely Democratic primary voters say they have not yet settled on whom they will vote for. They cite health care as the issue they most want to hear the candidates discuss, followed by the war in Iraq and the economy. Fifty-seven percent say they are at least somewhat concerned someone in their household will lose a job within the next year.

Many of Huckabee's supporters have switched from supporting another candidate -- six in ten say they used to support one of his rivals for the GOP presidential nomination. When asked why they are supporting him, Huckabee's supporters mention his honesty (17 percent) and his religious beliefs (15 percent).

Romney's voters say they agree with him on the issues (18 percent), think he is honest (13 percent), and cite his experience (12 percent). Romney is a Mormon, and 39 percent of the state's likely Republican primary voters -- including more than half of white evangelicals -- say they have an unfavorable view of the religion. One-third say they would prefer to vote for a candidate of their own faith.

McCain has the highest favorability rating among the GOP candidates, at nearly 50 percent, followed by Huckabee and Romney. More than 40 percent of likely Republican primary voters say they don't yet know enough about Huckabee or Thompson to have opinions about them.

Weekly churchgoers comprise 43 percent of South Carolina's likely Republican primary voters, and white evangelicals are 50 percent. After immigration, the state's likely Republican primary voters list the war in Iraq, the economy, and health care as the issues candidates should discuss. Three quarters say they approve of George W. Bush's performance as president.

This poll was conducted among a South Carolina statewide random sample of 1319 registered voters, including 599 likely Democratic Primary voters and 447 likely Republican Primary voters, and also including an oversample of African-American registered voters. Interviews were conducted December 13-17, 2007. The error due to sampling could be plus or minus three percentage points for results based on the full sample of registered voters, plus or minus four percentage points for results based on likely Democratic primary voters, and plus or minus five percentage points for results based on likely Republican primary voters.

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