Rudy, Hillary locked in a dead heat

New York Sen. Hillary Clinton still holds a 20-point lead over her rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination but she and Republican front-runner Rudy Giuliani are in a dead heat, according to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released on Wednesday.

Among Democrats, Clinton leads with 47 percent, followed by Illinois Sen. Barack Obama at 25 percent and former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards with 11 percent, NBC reported.

Clinton’s 22-point advantage over Obama in the poll is virtually unchanged since this summer.

In the new poll, 76 percent of Democrats surveyed give Clinton high marks for being knowledgeable and experienced enough to handle the presidency, compared with just 41 percent who say the same about Obama, NBC said.

When asked who was more likable, 72 percent said Obama versus 49 percent for Clinton. A majority, 65 percent, also viewed the Illinois senator as more honest and straightforward versus 53 percent who rated Clinton higher, NBC reported.

While Clinton is out front in the Democratic field, she would be neck-and-neck in a hypothetical general election match-up against former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, NBC said.

According to the poll, Clinton leads Giuliani by just one point, 46 percent to 45 percent, a statistical tie. In September, Clinton was 7 points ahead of Giuliani, 49 percent to 42 percent.

Giuliani leads Republican presidential contenders with 33 percent support, followed by Arizona Sen. John McCain at 16 percent and former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson at 15 percent.

The poll of 1,509 adults was taken Thursday through Monday and had a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points.