Interest in Election Runs High

Clinton's support, meanwhile, slipped by five points. The reason, again, is entirely blacks. In ABC/Post polls in December and January, she led Obama among African-Americans by 60-20 percent. Today it's a 44-33 percent race among blacks, with Obama in front.

Removing two well-known, unannounced contenders from the equation helps both the leaders. Without Newt Gingrich as a candidate, Giuliani's support jumps to 53 percent, while McCain's remains essentially unchanged. And without Al Gore as a candidate on the Democratic side, Clinton gains some ground over Obama.

Gore, for his part, seems unlikely to get much of a bounce from the best-documentary Oscar for "An Inconvenient Truth." Eighty-seven percent in this survey, which was completed before the award, said it wouldn't impact their choice. The rest split evenly between saying it would make them more likely -- or less likely -- to support him.

DEMS -- Clinton's public profile is highly polarized, though that's perhaps more relevant to the general election than to the primary campaign. Among all Americans, 49 percent view her favorably, but 48 percent unfavorably. Moreover, after a period of recent balance, more again strongly dislike her -- 35 percent -- than strongly like her, 25 percent.

It's inspired by partisanship, perhaps a hangover from her husband's time in office. Among leaned Democrats, 74 percent view Clinton favorably, 40 percent "strongly" so. But among leaned Republicans, 82 percent rate her unfavorably -- 66 percent strongly.

At the same time, Clinton leads in expectations as well as outright support -- 46 percent of Democrats expect her to win the nomination -- and in most attributes as well. She leads Obama and John Edwards by sizable margins (in many cases vast ones) on having the best experience, being the strongest leader, being the most electable and being the closest to Democrats on the issues.

But it's a closer contest on best understanding Democrats' problems -- an eight-point Clinton lead over Obama -- and she flags on honesty and trustworthiness, trailing Obama by a scant five points; and on being the "most inspiring" candidate, trailing him by eight.

Democrats split on whether Clinton's vote authorizing President Bush to use force in Iraq was the right thing for her to have done (52 percent) or a mistake (47 percent). Among those who say it's a mistake, three in 10 say she should apologize for it -- far from a majority, but at 14 percent of all leaned Democrats, not an insignificant group if the primary race tightens.

Obama, for his part, has had an eight-point boost in personal favorability; 53 percent of Americans now rate him favorably, 30 percent unfavorably -- a better ratio than Clinton's, but with more people undecided, given his much shorter time in the public eye.

Edwards, the 2004 vice presidential nominee, has had a 13-point jump in his unfavorable rating. On the Republican side Mitt Romney, similarly, has seen a 10-point jump in his unfavorable score.

REPS -- In terms of overall popularity, Giuliani has the brightest halo by far: Sixty-four percent of Americans have a favorable opinion of him overall vs. just 28 percent unfavorable. Polarization is far milder: Giuliani's negative rating from leaned Democrats (41 percent) is just half Clinton's from leaned Republicans (82 percent).

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