Democratic Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is popular within her party but could have trouble winning the presidency, according to a poll that also identified potential hurdles within the GOP for former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

The former first lady held a double-digit lead over possible rivals in the survey released Thursday by Marist College’s Institute for Public Opinion. Clinton, who has taken steps suggesting a 2008 bid, had the support of 33 percent of Democrats to 14 percent for former Sen. John Edwards.

Former Vice President Al Gore was at 13 percent and Illinois Sen. Barack Obama 12 percent. Other Democrats were in single digits.

Still, Clinton remains a polarizing figure, Forty-seven percent of registered voters said they would definitely not consider voting for the New York senator. Twenty-five percent said they definitely would consider voting for her while 28 percent said they would possibly consider it.

Giuliani and Sen. John McCain of Arizona led the GOP field, with 24 percent favoring Giuliani and 23 percent backing McCain. Giuliani and McCain each led Clinton, 49 percent to 43 percent.

But when Republicans were informed that Giuliani is "a pro-choice, pro-gun control, pro-gay rights Republican," 47 percent said those traditionally liberal positions would be a major factor in determining how they voted while just 22 percent said they would not be a factor.

Conservative voters hold considerable sway in the Republican presidential primaries.

"For Hillary, it is: She is acceptable to Democrats, but is she electable?" said Marist’s Lee Miringoff. "For Rudy, he’s electable; but is he acceptable" to Republicans deciding the nomination?"

The poll of 967 registered voters was conducted Nov. 27-Dec. 3 and has a sampling error margin of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.


New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson says a fence at the Mexican border authorized by Congress this fall "gets in the way" of U.S.-Mexico relations, and he wants the new Democratic Congress to reverse the legislation.

"The fence is very unpopular on the border in Texas and New Mexico, in Chihuahua," Richardson, a Democrat, said after meeting Wednesday with leaders from the Mexican state of Chihuahua. "So one of the most significant and constructive acts the U.S. Congress should take is to get rid of it."

Richardson said he will call on Congress not to build the fence during an address Thursday. He also will press lawmakers to approve a bill that secures the border and provides a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. While Congress and President Bush approved the 700-mile border fence, a widely debated bill overhauling immigration policy died in Congress this year.

Both statements ratchet up Richardson’s national profile as he weighs whether he will run for president.

Technically, Richardson is in Washington this week for a Democratic governors’ meeting. But his schedule also is packed with events that highlight his background as a former congressman, ambassador to the United Nations and energy secretary.

Wednesday, he met with Chihuahua officials at an event billed as a model for how the U.S. and Mexico should work together. Thursday, he will give the immigration speech at Georgetown University, and Friday, he will talk about energy independence.

Richardson is coy about his potential presidential plans, saying he will make a decision before the New Mexico legislature convenes Jan. 17.

Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter, who has announced his candidacy, said the San Diego border fence has been effective and endorsed extending it 700 miles across Arizona and New Mexico.

"Contrary to Governor Richardson’s opinion, the no-man’s-land of violence and smuggling that constitutes the border is not a symbol of freedom," Hunter said.


The nation’s top election oversight board approved guidelines for electronic voting machines, putting in place the first federal standards but stopping short of requiring states to follow them.

The Election Assistance Commission said the 68-page manual offers standards for equipment and software, offering states the option of having the congressionally created commission oversee the process instead of relying on statehouse-mandated inspections.

"Ultimately, it brings accountability to the system," said Gavin Gilmour, the commission’s deputy counsel. "This is a voluntary program, but I would hope as many states as possible participate."

Currently, about 40 states require machine certification, according to the commission.

The group also accepted a new definition of "election crimes" and commissioned the first government-sponsored national study on the subject.

Election crimes have been defined as actions that allow ineligible persons to vote, eligible voters to be excluded, or other similar interference. The new definition says such crimes generally involve deceptions, coercion, damage or inaction.


Even the Republican National Committee, long a model of in-the-black budgeting, came out of this year’s elections in debt.

Republican officials say the RNC has a $3 million deficit. It’s not alone. The Democratic National Committee reported a $4 million bank debt. And party committees such as the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the National Republican Senatorial Campaign and the National Republican Congressional Campaign are all reporting deficits after the most expensive midterm election.

The RNC’s post-election report to the Federal Election Commission shows $6.2 million cash in hand, but officials said that money has already been spent or committed to be spent. The DNC reported $4.7 million cash on hand as of Nov. 27.


Associated Press Writers Jennifer Talhelm, Philip Elliott and Jim Kuhnhenn contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2006 The Associated Press