Independents Fuel Obama's Lead / Huck Leads, McCain's In Third Among GOPers

The Register's take.

The numbers:

Obama: 32%

Clinton: 25%

Edwards: 24%.


Huckabee: 32%

Romney: 26%

McCain: 14%

The key points:

The poll reflects continued fluidity in the race even as the end of the yearlong campaign nears. Roughly a third of likely caucusgoers say they could be persuaded to choose someone else before Thursday evening. Six percent were undecided or uncommitted.

Thirty percent of the poll's respondents said a candidate's ability to bring about change is the most important, followed by 27 percent who said their priority is choosing a candidate who will be the most successful in unifying the country.

Asked which candidate would do the best on these themes, caucusgoers most commonly name Obama. The first-term U.S. senator has argued in the closing weeks of the campaign that his newness to Washington, D.C., would help him bridge a politically divided nation and improve its standing overseas.

Having the experience and competence to lead, which has been the crux of Clinton's closing argument, was seen as the most important to 18 percent of caucusgoers, with Clinton as the candidate most commonly rated best on this trait.

Clinton has made an aggressive effort to court female, first-time caucusgoers, especially younger women and those who are retired. Women account for 58 percent of caucusgoers, according to the survey.

Clinton has rebounded among female caucusgoers in general, pulling even with Obama at 32 percent after losing her edge among this key group to him in the previous Register poll.

Clinton receives more support from women 55 years old and older than her rivals, and she and Obama draw evenly from the pool of female caucusgoers between 35 and 54 years old.

However, she trails Obama badly among women under 35, with just 15 percent to his 57 percent.

The support from non-Democrats is significant because a whopping 40 percent of those planning to attend described themselves as independent and another 5 percent as Republican. Only registered Democrats can participate in the caucuses, although rules allow participants to change their party registration on their way in to the caucuses.