Republicans' Challenges: Plenty for Everyone

From ideology to religion to simple unfamiliarity, the leading Republican candidates for president all face significant challenges, which add up to a lineup that's viewed a good deal less satisfactorily than their Democratic counterparts.

Given what they know, only about half of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents in this ABC News/Washington Post poll say the leading GOP candidates are "about right" on social issues. While 65 percent are satisfied overall with the field, that compares with 83 percent satisfaction among Democrats. And Republicans are barely more than a third as likely as Democrats to be "very satisfied" with their choices.

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Lack of intensity also shows up in strength of support for the front-running Republican, Rudy Giuliani. Among Republicans who favor him for the nomination, just 32 percent "strongly" support Giuliani, down from 45 percent in April. On the Democratic side, by contrast, Hillary Clinton has 68 percent "strong" support; Barack Obama, 56 percent.

A third of leaned Republicans, moreover, see Giuliani as too liberal on social issues, more than say so about any of the other top candidates. That rises among some core Republican groups -- 51 percent of evangelical white Protestants call Giuliani too liberal, as do 42 percent of conservatives and 40 percent of those who oppose legal abortion.

THE RACE -- Giuliani nonetheless remains the preferred candidate: With support from 37 percent of leaned Republicans he continues to lead the field by double digits, as he has all year. John McCain and Fred Thompson trail him by a substantial margin, with 16 and 15 percent support, respectively.

Though these numbers are very similar to last month's, there have been changes. Giuliani is down from a peak of 53 percent support in February; McCain hit 23 percent in that same poll. (Thompson was not in the race at the time, though officially he still has yet to announce.) Mitt Romney has 8 percent support, with other candidates in the low single digits.

EXPERIENCE vs. VISION -- Key for Giuliani is his perceived strength and experience. In marked contrast to Democrats, leaned Republicans overwhelmingly say strength and experience are more important to them than "a new direction and new ideas," by 66 percent to 28 percent. Democrats, by contrast, pick "a new direction," albeit by a much closer nine-point margin.

This is critical for Giuliani, because among leaned Republicans who put strength and experience first, he has 40 percent support, compared with 15 percent for McCain and Thompson alike. Among those who place higher priority on a new direction, by contrast, Giuliani gets 26 percent support vs. 20 percent for McCain, 15 percent for Thompson.

Interestingly, on the Democratic side, Clinton, too, owes her lead to "strength and experience," with a 32-point lead over Obama among those who pick it, compared with a dead heat among those who care more about a new direction and new ideas.

Giuliani, like Clinton in her party, also has an aura of electability. Forty-five percent of leaned Republicans think he has the best chance of winning in the general election, far outpacing his closest rivals, Thompson (15 percent) and McCain (10 percent).

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