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Poll: Hillary Clinton top Democratic 2004 choice

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Hillary Rodham Clinton

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- With Al Gore now out of the race, New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton would be the top choice of Democrats for the 2004 presidential nomination if she chooses to run, according to a new CNN/Time magazine poll.

When registered Democrats were asked whom they would support in a field that included the New York senator and former first lady, 30 percent picked Clinton, compared with 13 percent each for Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts.

No other potential candidate broke out of single digits, while 14 percent said they were unsure.

The poll, with a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percentage points, was taken Tuesday and Wednesday, after Gore's surprise announcement last Sunday that he would not seek the presidency in 2004.

Clinton, elected to the Senate two years ago, has also said she will not be a candidate in 2004.

When poll respondents were asked whom they would support if Clinton does not run, Lieberman and Kerry were each named by 16 percent, followed by House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt of Missouri at 10 percent, Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota at 9 percent and Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina at 8 percent.

No other potential candidate cleared more than 5 percent, and 24 percent of those polled said they were unsure who they would support in a field without Clinton.

However, among registered voters of all stripes, the poll showed both Kerry and Lieberman trailing President Bush by large margins.

In a head-to-head matchup between Bush and Lieberman, 55 percent of registered voters said they would support the president, with 39 percent supporting the Connecticut senator. In a race with Kerry, Bush would carry 56 percent, compared with 39 percent for the Democrat, the poll found.

A Bush-Clinton matchup was not part of the poll.

The margin of error for poll questions involving all registered voters, rather than just Democrats, was plus or minus 4 percentage points.

Kerry has filed the paperwork to establish a presidential exploratory committee, the first step in a White House bid. Lieberman, who had said he would not run if Gore did, said this week that he is considering a bid and will decide by early next year.

Compared with Kerry, Lieberman, the 2000 Democratic vice presidential nominee, was seen as more moderate by Democrats polled. About 55 percent said he was either moderate or conservative, compared with 47 percent who said the same about Kerry.

However, 40 percent of those polled were unsure whether Kerry was liberal, moderate or conservative, while just 28 percent said they were unsure about Lieberman's ideological disposition. And 17 percent characterized Lieberman as liberal, compared with 13 percent for Kerry.

At a news conference earlier this week, Gore said he had not decided whether to endorse a candidate in 2004, although he said he probably would.

The CNN/Time poll found that 31 percent of registered Democrats would be more likely to support a candidate endorsed by Gore, 12 percent less likely and 56 percent said it would make no difference.

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