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(CNN) -- If presidential elections were held today, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton would likely have a comfortable edge over Sen. John McCain, but take away her maiden name and McCain has a better shot of landing in the Oval Office.
So say the results of a CNN poll released Friday by Opinion Research Corp., which asked 506 adult Americans whom they preferred among potential 2008 presidential candidates. The margin of error for the survey is plus or minus 4.5 percent.
Asked if they preferred Hillary Rodham Clinton to McCain, respondents gave the Democratic New York senator and former first lady a 51 percent to 44 percent advantage over the Republican Senator from Arizona. Remove "Rodham" and McCain had a 1 percentage point advantage, 48 percent to 47 percent.
The results fall within the sample's margin of error, so there is a "good chance, but not a statistical certainty" that Clinton's maiden name would help her in a matchup against McCain, said Keating Holland, CNN's polling director.
The results are consistent with earlier testing that indicated Clinton's favorability rose when her maiden name was included in the question, Holland said.
However, using "Rodham" seems to cut into Clinton's edge if her opponent is former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani.
Though Clinton has an advantage over Giuliani with or without her maiden name, using "Rodham" closes the gap. Asked if they prefer Hillary Clinton or Giuliani, Clinton has a 4 percentage point advantage, 50 percent to 46 percent.
Add "Rodham" to the equation and the former first lady's advantage over the Republican former mayor drops to 1 percentage point, 48 percent to 47 percent.
Holland notes that the results are moot for two reasons: The election is still 2 years off and no poll will accurately predict a race that far in advance; and Clinton has always appeared on the ballot using her middle name, and there is no sign that she intends to abandon it in future elections.
If presidential elections were today, Sen. "Hillary Rodham Clinton" would have advantages Sen. "Hillary Clinton" would not, according to a CNN poll.
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