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Poll: Obama gaining strength

73 percent predict he’ll beat Clinton

Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., speaks about retirement security during a roundtable discussion Monday, Feb. 25, 2008, at the Cincinnati Museum Center in Cincinnati, Ohio

Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., speaks about retirement security during a roundtable discussion Monday, Feb. 25, 2008, at the Cincinnati Museum Center in Cincinnati, Ohio

The air of inevitability that once surrounded Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Rodham Clinton has shifted to challenger Barack Obama. In a new national USA TODAY/Gallup Poll, those surveyed predict by 73 percent to 20 percent that Obama will be the Democratic nominee.

Democratic voters hold that view by nearly 3-1.

The Illinois senator surged to a double-digit lead nationally over Clinton, walloping the New York senator 51 percent to 39 percent among Democrat voters as their preference for the presidential nomination. The poll of 2,012 adults was taken Thursday through Sunday and has a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.

Obama’s 12-point lead – his first outside the survey’s margin of error – is at odds with a separate Gallup tracking poll. Taken Friday through Sunday, it gave Obama a 47 percent to 45 percent lead over Clinton.

An Associated Press-Ipsos poll released Monday also shows a virtual tie, giving Obama 46 percent to Clinton’s 43 percent. The AP-Ipsos poll of 1,011 adults was conducted Friday through Sunday and has margin of error was plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

Both candidates are stumping for next week’s primaries in Ohio and Texas, states that former President Clinton described as must-wins for his wife’s candidacy to have a chance of prevailing.

Among Republicans, presumptive nominee John McCain of Arizona swamps former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee 61 percent to 23 percent in the USA TODAY/Gallup Poll. Texas Rep. Ron Paul and former ambassador Alan Keyes are each at 4 percent.

The subsample of 1,009 Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents has an error margin of 3 points; the Republican sample of 829 has a margin of 4 points.

In prospective general election match-ups, McCain beats Clinton 50 percent-46 percent, while McCain and Obama are essentially tied. McCain is at 48 percent, Obama 47 percent.

Contributing: The Associated Press

Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., right, is dressed as a Somali Elder by Sheikh Mahmed Hassan, left, during his visit to Wajir, a rural area in northeastern Kenya, near the borders with Somalia and Ethiopia in this file photo from Aug. 27, 2006. The garb was presented to Obama by elders in Wajir. Obama's estranged late father was Kenyan and Obama visited the country in 2006, attracting thousands of well-wishers.

Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., right, is dressed as a Somali Elder by Sheikh Mahmed Hassan, left, during his visit to Wajir, a rural area in northeastern Kenya, near the borders with Somalia and Ethiopia in this file photo from Aug. 27, 2006. The garb was presented to Obama by elders in Wajir. Obama's estranged late father was Kenyan and Obama visited the country in 2006, attracting thousands of well-wishers.

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PRESIDENTIAL PREFERENCES

Democrats

• Barack Obama: 51 percent

• Hillary Rodham Clinton: 39 percent

Republicans

• John McCain: 61 percent

• Mike Huckabee: 23 percent

• Ron Paul: 4 percent

• Alan Keyes: 4 percent

USA TODAY

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