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Poll: Obama now trails only Clinton on '08 list

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, who has recently said he is considering a bid for his party's presidential nomination, now trails only Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton on list of potential Democratic candidates in 2008, according to a new CNN poll released Wednesday.

On the Republican side, Sen. John McCain of Arizona is running neck and neck with former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani among Republicans, the poll found.

Obama gets support from 17 percent of registered Democrats, vaulting him into second place, ahead of former Vice President Al Gore, Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina and Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, according to the poll. (How Dems, GOPs rate)

On October 22, Sen. Barack Obama said that he may run for president in 2008, despite previous assertions that he would complete his current six-year senatorial term, which ends in 2011. (Full story)

"I would say I am still at the point where I have not made a decision to pursue higher office, but it is true that I have thought about it over the last several months," the 45-year-old Democratic senator from Illinois told NBC's "Meet the Press."

In January, Obama told NBC that he would not run for president or vice president in 2008.

Asked by NBC's Tim Russert about his earlier stance, Obama said, "That was how I was thinking at that time."

"I don't want to be coy about this, given the responses that I've been getting over the last several months," he said. "I have thought about the possibility, but I have not thought about it with the seriousness and depth that I think is required."

Clinton's share of the Democratic voters has fallen from 38 percent in September to 28 percent -- still enough to make her the front-runner. (Read the complete poll results -- PDF)

Obama appears to be drawing his support mostly from Clinton and Gore, who has fallen from 19 percent in September to 13 percent.

The poll was carried out before Kerry's "botched" jab at President Bush that came out as a being a slap at U.S. troops in Iraq. Kerry, was at the bottom of the first tier of Democratic candidates, with 12 percent. (Watch the falling stars of Kerry and Sen. George Allen -- 1:53 Video

On Monday, Kerry, opening a speech to students in California with a series of jokes aimed at Bush, said, "You know education, if you make the most of it, you study hard, you do your homework and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. If you don't, you get stuck in Iraq."

On Wednesday afternoon, Kerry said in a statement he regretted that his words were "misinterpreted to wrongly imply anything negative about those in uniform." (Full story)

On Tuesday, after Republicans pounced on the comment as disrespectful of the nation's military, a Kerry aide said the senator had "mangled" what was intended to be a criticism of President Bush.

Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana, Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware, Sen. Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack are all in the low single digits.

McCain, Giuliani in virtual tie

On the Republican side, there is a virtual tie for first place, with 29 percent of registered GOPers expressing preference for Giuliani and 27 percent opting for McCain.

McCain has picked up 6 points of support since September, with Giuliani holding steady.

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich of Georgia is the only other Republican to make it into double digits, with 12 percent.

Sen. George Allen of Virginia, who is embroiled in a tough re-election fight, was at 7 percent last month, but pulls just 2 percent now.

The telephone poll of 873 registered voters -- 472 people who identified themselves as Democrats or leaning Democrat and 401 who identified themselves as Republican or leaning Republican -- was carried out last Friday through Sunday for CNN by Opinion Research Corp.

Questions asked of Democrats have a sampling error of plus or minus 4.5 points; those asked of Republicans have a sampling error of plus or minus 5 points.

Sen. Barack Obama, left, now is the choice of 17 percent of registered Democrats, according to a new CNN poll.



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