Nation & World

Romney, McCain running close race in Florida

WASHINGTON — Mitt Romney and John McCain are neck and neck days before the Florida Republican presidential primary, according to a new Mason-Dixon poll made available to McClatchy.

Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, had 30 percent. McCain, an Arizona senator, had 26 percent. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percentage points, and 10 percent of voters remained undecided.

Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani was in third place, with 18 percent of likely voters in Tuesday's primary. He essentially skipped all earlier contests and is betting his entire campaign on Florida and its winner-take-all prize of 57 delegates.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee was fourth, with 13 percent. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas had 3 percent.

While Giuliani's support has shrunk sharply since autumn polls, his remaining backing is the most solid of the top candidates. The poll found that 19 percent of his supporters said they still might switch to other candidates, compared with 26 percent of Romney's supporters, 28 percent of Huckabee's and 33 percent of McCain's.

On the Democratic side, a largely meaningless primary in which no delegates are at stake and no candidates have campaigned, New York Sen. Hillary Clinton had 47 percent, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama had 25 percent, former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards had 16 percent and 10 percent were undecided. The error margin again was plus or minus 5 percentage points.

The stakes are much higher for the Republicans.

Romney and McCain were locked in a close competition across the state and across all demographics.

Romney had the edge among voters who rank the economy or immigration their top concerns. He also had a slight advantage among men, whites, older voters and evangelical Christians. His strongest area was Tampa Bay and Southwest Florida.

McCain had the edge among those who are looking for strong leadership and those who rank terrorism and security their top issue.

Giuliani's main base of support was Hispanics. He got 52 percent of their support, while McCain got 30 percent and Romney 8 percent. Giuliani's strongest area was Miami-Dade County.

ON THE WEB

Download the survey in PDF format.

HOW WE POLL

The poll of 400 likely Republican primary voters was conducted Tuesday and Wednesday and the poll of 400 likely Democratic primary voters was conducted Monday through Wednesday. Each had a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percentage points.

The polls by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research were conducted for a group of Florida news media outlets including The Miami Herald, the Orlando Sentinel, Tampa Tribune, Gannett's Florida papers and several NBC affiliates.

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