Barack Obama, the 46-year-old senator aiming to become America's first black president, has stormed into a 10-point lead over Hillary Clinton in this week's critical New Hampshire primary, threatening to send her campaign into meltdown.
The Rasmussen survey, which was carried out the day after Obama's victory in last Thursday's Iowa caucuses, put his support at 37% in New Hampshire, compared with 27% for Clinton.
The poll of 510 likely Democratic voters signalled a further swing away from the 60-year-old former first lady, whose campaign portrayed her as the "inevitable" victor until she was beaten into third place in Iowa.
Yesterday thousands of people queued in the snow to hear Obama speak in a high school gymnasium, reflecting the excitement building around his campaign in the run-up to the primary on Tuesday.
As the Democratic rivals prepared for a televised debate last night, Clinton accused Obama of peddling "false hopes". She said: "It is hard to know exactly where he stands. People need to ask that." Obama emphasised his broad objective of uniting people in pursuit of change. "There is no destiny we cannot fulfil. That has been the promise of this campaign," he said.
The Clinton camp is divided about how negative to go against Obama, but the fight is getting dirtier as the stakes rise.
Melanie Levesque, a New Hampshire state representative and a member of the African-Americans For Hillary group said: "I'm very concerned that you can't state [Obama's] middle name . . . and his past life." She confirmed she was referring to Hussein, Obama's Muslim middle name, and his use of drugs as a young man.
Recriminations have begun in Clinton's campaign over her failure to create a forward-looking message and her reliance on Bill Clinton.
Victory in New Hampshire could give Obama the momentum to wrap up the nomination on February 5, when more than 20 states will vote. ( Times )