Clinton has big lead in early NH poll

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton holds a big lead in an early presidential primary poll in New Hampshire released Thursday, underscoring the challenge Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley has before him should he decide to seek the Democratic nomination against her.

Clinton, who has not declared whether she will run for president in 2016, would have support from 63 percent of New Hampshire primary voters, according to the University of New Hampshire poll -- conducted three years before the primary takes place.

One in 10 voters said they would support Vice President Joe Biden for the nomination and 5 percent said they would back New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Sixteen percent remain undecided. O'Malley, who has not visited the state frequently, captures less than 1 percent in the poll.

Given how early it is in the election cycle and the fact that no one has declared their candidacy, the numbers have little to say about where the race will end up. Clinton's decision will change the entire dynamic of the 2016 Democratic primary. Same for Biden. 

But there is value in taking the snapshot now. For one thing, the question mark hanging over Clinton's candidacy freezes other potential candidates, including O'Malley, from tapping into major Democratic donors now. The poll reinforces that continuing to wait for Clinton's decision is the best bet for those donors. The numbers also demonstrate the work O'Malley has before him to raise his profile in the first-in-the-nation primary state, should he decide to run.

Nine percent of voters said they had a favorable opinion of O'Malley compared to 6 percent who had an unfavorable opinion. But eight in 10 voters said they don't know him. That's similar to the numbers for Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper. But voters in New Hampshire are more familiar with Cuomo. Fifty-six percent said they have a favorable view of New York's governor, compared with 16 percent who have an unfavorable view and 20 percent who don't know him.

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