McCain Rejection Rate Spikes; Clinton, Giuliani Still Lead

Voter rejection of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the candidate who's most staunchly backed the Iraq War, has spiked in the last year, to the point where nearly half of Americans -- including a quarter of Republicans -- say they definitely would not support him for president.

That marks a sharp change. In an ABC News/Washington Post poll in May 2006, 28 percent said they wouldn't consider supporting McCain if he were to win his party's nomination. Today that's risen to 47 percent.

It's worse still for former Republican Gov. Mitt Romney; a majority of Americans, 54 percent, say they definitely wouldn't vote for him, including a third of Republicans -- a particularly broad level of rejection within his own party.

Indeed McCain and Romney's negatives on this measure match or exceed those of Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., whose polarized political profile has been well documented. Forty-five percent of adults say they definitely wouldn't vote for her, about the same as last May.

Clinton sustains less rejection within her own party than either McCain or Romney in theirs -- 15 percent of Democrats say they wouldn't support her. And, conversely, she's also got the highest "definite" support. Twenty-seven percent say she's got their vote nailed down, more than say so about any of her leading rivals, Democratic or Republican.

Rounding out the top contenders, 40 percent say they definitely wouldn't vote for former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, and 35 or 36 percent flatly reject former Sen. John Edwards and Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill.

In the plus column, 17 to 20 percent say they'd definitely back Obama, Edwards or Giuliani; fewer are definitely for McCain (12 percent) or Romney (7 percent).

Independents May Hold Key to Oval Office

Since much of this is based in partisanship, these views may be at least as instructive among independents alone, on the theory that party adherents are likely ultimately to line up behind their party's nominee.

That result shifts the picture. Fifty-one percent of independents say they definitely would not support Clinton for president, more than say so about any other candidate save Romney (53 percent).

By contrast, Obama is ruled out by just 29 percent of independents, Giuliani by 35 percent, Edwards by 39 percent and McCain by 41 percent.

McCain's War

In an indication that his position on the war in Iraq isn't helping McCain, this poll finds a striking change in the number of "strong" war opponents who reject his candidacy.

Among people who both feel strongly that the war was not worth fighting and who strongly disapprove of how Bush is handling it (nearly half of all adults), 63 percent say they definitely would not support McCain for president. Among this same group in May 2006, by contrast, far fewer -- 34 percent -- rejected McCain.

McCain meanwhile has not improved his standing among people who strongly approve of the war -- and there are many fewer of them.

Getting to Know You

These and other election views can change as the campaigns evolve and the public becomes more familiar with the candidates.

Clinton still holds a substantial lead in familiarity, but even in her own party, among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents, just a narrow majority, 52 percent, say they know at least a good amount about her positions.

That falls to 28 percent familiarity with Edwards, and 25 percent with Obama.

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