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Bush trails McCain in Arizona

C.T. REVERE Citizen Political Writer

As the presidential primary season gets under way, Sen. John McCain is starting to pull away from the Republican pack in the battle to win his home state, a recent poll suggests.

McCain has an eight-point lead among likely Arizona voters over national front-runner George W. Bush in a Behavioral Research Center/Rocky Mountain Poll.

The poll, based on interviews with 524 voters from Jan. 18-23, gives McCain a 42-34 edge over the Texas governor to win Arizona’s Republican presidential primary Feb. 22.

No other candidate registers in double digits in the state, but 10 percent of those queried said they were still undecided.

McCain has been steadily gaining ground in Arizona, increasing his support from 21 percent in July. At the same time, support for Bush has dropped from 37 percent to 34 percent.

Publisher Steve Forbes, who finished a strong second behind Bush in the Iowa caucuses, is running third among Arizona voters with 9 percent support.

Former ambassador Alan Keyes – also coming off a surprisingly strong finish in Iowa – came in at 3 percent in the poll, and conservative activist Gary Bauer got 1 percent.

Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, who withdrew this week after finishing last in the Iowa caucuses, received 1 percent of the support.

In the Democratic race, Vice President Al Gore has widened his lead over former New Jersey Sen. Bill Bradley.

Gore, who got the nod from 53 percent of those questioned, is enjoying his largest lead in Arizona and his first rating of higher than 50 percent. Bradley has 24 percent, with 23 percent of Arizonans saying they were uncommitted.

The Democratic primary will be held March 11.

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