The latest U.S. public opinion polls suggest there is good news and bad news for the two top contenders for president next year, Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Rudy Giuliani. The latest survey was released only hours before the first Republican presidential debate in California (8:00 PM EDT, 5/3/07). VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports from Washington.

A new survey conducted by Quinnipiac University in Connecticut has New York Senator Hillary Clinton leading the Democratic field with 32 percent support. Illinois Senator Barack Obama is in second place with 18 percent, followed by former Vice President Al Gore at 14 percent and former North Carolina Senator John Edwards at 12 percent.

Gore draws well even though he has repeatedly said he will not be a candidate next year.

On the Republican side, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani remains in the lead with 27 percent, followed by Arizona Senator John McCain at 19 percent, former Tennessee Senator Fred Thompson with 14 percent support and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney at eight percent.

Thompson has said he will decide soon whether to enter the race for the Republican Party nomination.

Another recent poll by Quinnipiac found Giuliani would defeat most of the top Democrats in head-to-head match-ups in three key states, Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. But the survey also shows Giuliani's once sizable lead among Republicans is shrinking.

"Obviously there is good news here for former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. He wins most of the match-ups in the three states against the various Democratic candidates. But his margin in the Republican primary [field] over Senator McCain seems to be dropping a bit from our last polls about a month ago," said Peter Brown of Quinnipiac University's Polling Institute.

Senator Clinton has been a consistent leader in the Democratic field. But pollster Peter Brown says despite Clinton's standing in the polls, she still draws the highest negative ratings of any presidential candidate from either party.

"She has persistently high unfavorable ratings. They average about 43 percent in all three of these states. That is pretty high for a candidate. You can get elected President of the United States with a 43 percent unfavorable [rating], but when it gets much higher, into the high 40's, it becomes a problem," added Brown.

Polls in some of the states that will hold early presidential contests also suggest there could be opportunities for challengers to upset the frontrunners.

In Iowa, for example, John Edwards leads among Democrats. In the Republican race, Senator McCain is leading in three early contest states including Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.