Clinton has 21-point lead in New Hampshire poll

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WASHINGTON, Oct 14 (Reuters) Hillary Clinton has a 21-point lead over fellow Democrat Barack Obama in New Hampshire, one of the first states to vote in the nominating process for the 2008 US presidential election, a poll showed today.

In a poll by Marist College Institute for Public Opinion, 41 per cent of likely Democratic voters support Clinton followed by 20 per cent for Obama, a first-term senator from Illinois.

Former Sen. John Edwards was third with 11 per cent.

Among likely Republican voters, former Massachusetts Gov Mitt Romney had a slight lead with 26 percent support, followed by 20 percent for former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and 17 percent for Arizona Sen. John McCain. Former Tennessee Sen Fred Thompson, a Hollywood actor who officially entered the race last month, had 10 per cent support.

The poll surveyed 1,512 registered New Hampshire voters and has a margin of error of 5 percentage points for the results for Democrats and 5.5 percentage points for Republicans.

New Hampshire's primaries are traditionally among the first in the nation and considered a key proving ground for presidential hopefuls.

Regardless of the presidential candidate they support, the poll showed 58 per cent of potential Democratic primary voters think New York Sen Clinton has the best chance of beating the Republican candidate for president next November.

The strongest Republican in the general election is Giuliani, the poll found.

''While Mitt Romney is ahead in the horserace, many New Hampshire Republican presidential primary voters think the betting money should be on Rudy Giuliani as the Republican most likely to beat the Democrat next November,'' Marist said.

The poll showed that Democratic voters were most concerned about the war in Iraq, health care and the economy. Democrats also are interested in bringing about change, it said.

''Clinton is the overwhelming choice among those voters who want a strong leader or someone who will bring about change,'' Marist said. ''She has a narrow lead over Barack Obama among likely voters who are looking for a candidate who is closer to them on the issues or shares their values.'' Republicans are most concerned about terrorism, the economy and the war in Iraq. The poll said Romney was the strongest candidate among Republican voters most concerned about terrorism.

REUTERS ARB AS0849

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