The latest public opinion polls in the U.S. presidential race contain good news for Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Rudy Giuliani. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has the latest on the 2008 election campaign from Washington.
Two polls, one by the Cable News Network and the Gallup organization and another by Newsweek magazine, show Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani remain the frontrunners for their party presidential nominations.
In the Democratic race, Clinton leads Senator Barack Obama in the CNN poll by a margin of 44 to 25 percent, with former Senator John Edwards in third place with 14 percent. The Newsweek poll has Clinton ahead of Obama by a margin of 44 to 24 percent.
The battle for the Republican Party's presidential nomination appears closer. The CNN survey has Giuliani in the lead with 28 percent, followed by former Senator Fred Thompson at 19 percent, Senator John McCain with 16 percent and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney at 11 percent. The Newsweek poll had Giuliani leading Thompson by a margin of 30 to 15 percent.
Clinton leads Giuliani by narrow margins in head-to-head match ups in both surveys.
The latest polls come with less than two months to go until the first votes are cast in the caucus and primary season.
Clinton's Democratic rivals have stepped up their criticism in recent days with a focus on differences over foreign policy.
Senator Obama says Clinton's initial support for the Iraq war and her recent vote in favor of a Senate resolution declaring Iran's Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization suggest she is out of step with Democrats who prefer an emphasis on diplomacy in dealing with Iran.
"She authorized the [Iraq] war and then recently started voting on this Iran resolution," he said. "The drums of war are beating again. You cannot be fooled twice!"
Clinton rejects the notion that her vote amounts to leading the country down the path to war with Iran and says she favors reinvigorating U.S. diplomacy if she is elected next year.
"You cannot be a leader in the world if no one is following, and we have got to get back to leading," she said. "Leading with our values, leading with moral authority, leading on behalf of bringing the world together."
The Republican presidential contenders generally take a more aggressive approach toward Iran, with several suggesting they would be willing to use military force to prevent the Iranian government from developing nuclear weapons.
A new poll by the USA Today newspaper and the Gallup organization shows Americans are about evenly split on the question of whether to use military force against Iran if diplomatic efforts fail to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. Forty six percent said "yes" to the military option while 45 percent said "no".
National security has emerged as a key issue in the battle for the Republican Party nomination, and that in part has fueled Giuliani's rise to the top of the field.
Opinion polls show Giuliani is seen as the strongest leader among the Republican contenders, based on his performance in the wake of the September 11th attacks on the U.S.
But Giuliani's rivals are not backing away from challenging him on national security.
Fred Thompson addressed the issue during a recent campaign swing through the early contest state of New Hampshire.
"The number one issue being the security of this country," he said. "We have yet to come to terms fully as a nation to the fact that we are in a global conflict that will not be resolved when the Iraq war is resolved."
Experts say foreign policy issues are likely to get a lot of focus during the 2008 campaign.
Arthur Sanders teaches politics at Drake University in Iowa.
"This time around, it is of major importance," said Sanders. "The war in Iraq and the war on terror and Iran and nuclear weapons are things that are looming in front of people and they are concerned about them."
The latest polls suggest the war in Iraq, terrorism, national security, the domestic economy and the rising cost of health care will all be important issues in next year's election.