Several recent public opinion polls suggest Senator Hillary Clinton is solidifying her lead for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination. On the Republican side, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani continues to lead a field of candidates that could grow in the weeks ahead. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has the latest on the 2008 presidential race from Washington.
Senator Clinton remains in a strong position in the Democratic race according to several new polls.
A survey by Quinnipiac University in Connecticut had Clinton winning the support of 35 percent of those Democrats polled, with Illinois Senator Barack Obama in second place at 21 percent and former Vice President Al Gore at 18 percent. Gore has repeatedly said he has no plans to run for president next year.
Maurice Carroll is director of Quinnipiac's Polling Institute. Carroll says Clinton's Democratic rivals are hoping she stumbles in some of the early primary states when the voting begins in January.
"What the numbers seem to say is that unless she gets dislodged by something like Iowa or New Hampshire, she is the nominee," he said. "So you have to wonder, Obama for vice president?"
Leon Panetta is a former Democratic congressman who later served as President Bill Clinton's chief of staff. Panetta says Hillary Clinton benefits from a strong campaign and fundraising organization and from a perception among Democratic voters that she is a capable leader.
"She is leading in part because of experience," he said. "She was First Lady. She is a United States Senator. She has obviously proven herself to be a good campaigner, she ran in New York and won handily for election and re-election. In addition, her husband remains pretty popular."
The race for the Republican presidential nomination appears far less certain.
Although Rudy Giuliani continues to lead in all recent polls, the expected entrance into the race of former Tennessee Senator Fred Thompson has the potential to shake up the Republican field.
Thompson has yet to formally announce his candidacy, but he did say he would like to be president on NBC's The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.
"I have never craved the job of president, but I want to do some things that only a president can do," he said. "So the answer is yes."
Pollster Maurice Carroll says Thompson would represent an alternative for social conservative voters who have yet to decide on which Republican candidate to support next year.
"And Thompson as the 'I wonder who he is' kind of candidate, as the outsider who has not been knocked around yet, Thompson looks pretty good in a fluid field where quite clearly, Republicans have not made up their minds," he added.
In addition to Thompson, former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich is considering a presidential bid as well.
The latest polls suggest support for Arizona Republican Senator John McCain may be slipping a bit.
In the latest survey by the Los Angeles Times newspaper and the Bloomberg news service, Fred Thompson placed second among Republicans, behind Giuliani and well ahead of McCain, who had been running second in most polls for months.