HELENA – A new poll shows Sen. Barack Obama leading Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton in Montana heading into the state’s June 3 presidential primary. Both Democrats trail Republican Sen. John McCain in head-to-head matchups.
The Lee Newspapers poll — the first broad survey of Montana voters since December — shows Obama leading Clinton 52 to 35 percent among likely Democratic voters. Thirteen percent were undecided.
The survey could bode poorly for Clinton, who also had the highest negative ratings among voters. Her campaign is counting on wins in Montana and neighboring South Dakota on June 3 to boost her argument that she is best positioned to beat McCain in the general election.
The two primaries are the last in the nation. Obama currently leads Clinton in the national delegate count.
Mason-Dixon Polling and Research, Inc. of Washington, D.C., conducted the telephone poll for Lee Newspapers on May 19-21 and asked 625 registered Montana voters an array of questions. Pollsters oversampled to find 400 likely Democratic voters for the Obama-Clinton primary question.
That question had a sampling error margin of plus or minus 5 percentage points, while the overall poll had a sampling error margin of plus or minus 4 percentage points.
Mason-Dixon managing director Brad Coker said there was still time for Clinton to make up ground, but said he would be surprised if Obama did not win Montana.
“The margin might tighten up,” Coker told Lee Newspapers in an article published Sunday.
In the general election matchups, the Lee poll showed McCain ahead of Obama 47 to 39 percent, with 14 percent undecided, if the election were held today.
McCain led Clinton 51 to 40 percent, with 9 percent undecided, the poll showed.
The last Democratic presidential candidate to win in Montana was former President Bill Clinton in 1992, when third-party candidate Ross Perot helped dilute the Republican vote.
McCain had the highest favorability ratings among those polled, with 46 percent. Thirty-five percent of respondents viewed McCain unfavorably and 19 percent were neutral.
Only 29 percent viewed Clinton favorably, while 50 percent gave her an unfavorable rating and 21 percent were neutral. Obama scored 41 percent favorable, 38 percent unfavorable, and 21 percent neutral.
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