LAS VEGAS (AP) " New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton' iron grip on Nevada's Democratic presidential nomination has slipped as Illinois Sen. Barack Obama has surged, according to a newspaper poll.
According to the Dec. 3-5 telephone survey published in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Clinton is favored by 34 percent of likely caucus-goers, compared to 26 percent for Obama.
In the paper's last poll, conducted in October, she had 39 percent to Obama's 21 percent. No other candidate registered in the double digits. Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards got 9 percent, while New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson earned 7 percent.
"The traditional wisdom is that this should be no surprise," said Eric Herzik, a University of Nevada, Reno political scientist. "As the election date gets closer, races tend to get closer. Big leads rarely sustain themselves."
Nonetheless, Herzik said, Clinton should be able to pull out a win in Nevada.
"That would be a terrific collapse, given her organization, her money, all the people backing her and her big lead early on," he said. "Obama's the fresh face, and he's got some momentum right now. She's off her game right now. But it would be amazing if she didn't win here."
The poll of 625 registered voters had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.
The Republican field has been unsettled, with Giuliani leading the October Review-Journal poll and Romney leading one conducted in June. Giuliani now has 25 percent and Romney 20 percent.
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee registered the support of 17 percent of likely Republican caucus-goers despite having no presence in Nevada and not once visiting the state during the campaign.
In previous Review-Journal polls, Huckabee pulled 2 percent or 3 percent of the Republican vote.
"It's obvious that Huckabee, on the Republican side, has made a splash," said Brad Coker, managing partner of polling firm Mason-Dixon Polling & Research Inc.
Herzik said Huckabee is getting a Nevada bounce that echoes a sudden surge in national attention based on his debate performance and appeal among Christian conservatives dissatisfied with the rest of the field.
Among Nevada Republicans, evangelical and social conservatives aren't the majority, and Herzik said Huckabee will likely fade here when his less than hard-line stances on taxes and immigration come to voters' attention.
"A few months ago, Fred Thompson was the flavor of the month," Herzik said. "He's run a lousy campaign, and now he's almost gone. His drop is reflected in Huckabee's rise."
Fred Thompson, the actor and former Tennessee senator, had 9 percent support. Arizona Sen. John McCain has 7 percent and Texas Rep. Ron Paul 5 percent.
Information from: Las Vegas Review-Journal, http://www.lvrj.com