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 TIME on politics Congressional Quarterly CNN/AllPolitics CNN/AllPolitics - Storypage, with TIME and Congressional Quarterly

New Hampshire poll shows Dole, Bush leading GOP pack

By Carin Dessauer/CNN

January 6, 1999
Web posted at: 4:27 p.m. EST (2127 GMT)

WASHINGTON (January 6) -- Two familiar campaign names, Dole and Bush, top a newly released New Hampshire poll of Republican presidential prospects for 2000. But this time the prospective candidates are Elizabeth Dole and George W. Bush, son of the former president.

Elizabeth Dole  

And in the poll gauging a potential GOP primary matchup, this time Dole leads Bush.

Dole, wife of defeated 1996 Republican presidential nominee Bob Dole, resigned Monday as president of the American Red Cross, a first step in what is expected to be her entry into the 2000 presidential sweepstakes.

The New Hampshire poll of "likely Republican primary voters" showed Dole leading with 27 percent and Bush close behind, within the survey's margin of error, at 23 percent.

But asked which candidate would be the strongest challenger in a general election against the Democrats, Bush led the pack of GOP hopefuls with 37 percent support, compared to 22 percent for Dole.

In the hypothetical primary matchup, no other likely candidates finished in double figures.

Republican Sen. Bob Smith, a favorite son of New Hampshire who this week notified the Federal Election Commission he is forming a presidential committee, received 9 percent support. Two other failed 1996 candidates, former Tennessee Gov. Lamar Alexander and multimillionaire magazine magnate Steve Forbes received 7 percent and 6 percent support, respectively. Sen. John McCain also polled 6 percent support and former vice president Dan Quayle received 5 percent.

Gov. George W. Bush  

Questioned on who would be the strongest candidate in a general election, third place went to "undecided" with 18 percent. Alexander, Forbes and Smith all received 5 percent.

The pollster, Whit Ayers, cautioned against reading too much into the polling results for an election still nearly two years away.

Ayers said while Dole, a cabinet member under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush, is a "potentially formidable" candidate, the overall political environment at this time "is exceedingly soft."

"A real factor in Dole getting these numbers is the fact that she had enormous visibility at the time," Ayers said.

Ayers, who was Alexander's campaign pollster in 1996, said he has been advising Alexander this time around, but is not officially on board with him.

The poll was conducted in the evening of January 4-5, just as Dole was hinting at a possible candidacy.

Sen. Bob Smith  

The surveyed polled 300 "likely Republican primary voters," and had a margin of sampling error of 5.8 percent. It was commissioned by the American Association of Health Plans, which was exploring health care issues, presumably a strength for Dole. Also included in the poll were several ballot test questions.

CNN Polling Director Keating Holland warned that those surveyed could have been influenced by the fact that they were asked the health care questions first, which "might have helped Dole slightly."

The last poll conducted of Republicans in New Hampshire was in early December, before there was any strong indication Dole might run. In that survey, conducted by the American Research Group, Bush was a clear leader with 29 percent support, Alexander had 15 percent, Dole 7 percent and Smith, who had not yet filed for a presidential exploratory committee, had 3 percent.

The last CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll of the potential 2000 presidential field in late October put Bush on top with 39 percent. Dole had 17 percent, Quayle 12 percent and Forbes 7 percent. That poll was conducted October 23-25, among 434 Republicans.


Wednesday January 6, 1999

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