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Dem race tighter than ever; Huck surges

From NBC's Chuck Todd, Mark Murray and Domenico Montanaro
If the first round of MSNBC/McClatchy/Mason-Dixon presidential state
polls are any indication, we're in for a wild ride these next six weeks.

The only candidate in either party with a lead outside of the margin of error in the big 3 states (Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina) is Republican Mike Huckabee who sports a double-digit lead over his nearest competitor. No Democrat has a lead outside the margin of error in those three states and the Republican races in both New Hampshire and South Carolina are also margin-of-error close.

We'll get into the weeds of the polls in two party-specific subsequent posts, but here are the basic highlights.  (Click here for more on the Democrats; Click here for more on the Republicans)

All of the MSNBC/McClatchy polls were conducted by Mason-Dixon Dec. 3-6 and they surveyed 400 likely primary or caucus-goers in each case. They have a margin of error of +/- 5%.

-- On the GOP side, just three candidates registered double-digits. Huckabee nabbed 32%, Romney followed with 20% and Thompson was third with 11%. McCain was in fourth with 7% and Giuliani nabbed just 5%, his worse showing in any Iowa poll this year.
-- Simply sporting a lead in Iowa right now can be considered good news for Clinton partisans, so while her two point lead over Obama is statistically insignificant, a lead's a lead. Clinton nabbed 27%, followed by Obama at 25% and Edwards at 21%. No other candidate scored double-digits, including Richardson who came in at 9% and Joe Biden who rec'd 5%. As for the all-important second-choice category, all three Dem frontrunners are tied, with 30% picking Obama, 29% naming Clinton and 27% selecting Edwards.

-- Obama's momentum in Iowa appears to be carrying over to New Hampshire as he trails Clinton by a mere three points. This is the tightest result for any New Hampshire Dem primary poll this year. Clinton gets 30% to Obama's 27%. Edwards barely cracks double-digits with 10%, with one in five primary voters undecided.
-- Could the GOP primary be turning into a 4-way race? Possibly. Romney's once insurmountable lead appears, well, surmountable. He leads the field with 25%, followed by Giuliani at 17%, McCain gets 16% and Huckabee edges into double-digits with 11%. Nearly one in six voters are undecided.

-- In The Dem race, Clinton's lead is just three points over Obama, 28-25, with John Edwards scoring a very competitive 18%. (Remember, Edwards won this state in the '04 primaries). No other Dem receives more than 2%.
-- On the GOP side, the improbable rise of Huckabee is not just an Iowa story anymore. The former Arkansas governor leads a very competitive primary with 20%, followed very closely by Giuliani at 17%, Romney at 15%, Thompson at 14% and McCain at 10%. Nearly one in five S.C. Republicans are undecided, highlighting the fluidity of the race.

Mason-Dixon also has a Nevada poll out Sunday that the firm conducted for the Las Vegas Review-Journal.  The survey was conducted Dec. 3-5 with 300 likely caucus-goers surveyed in each party. On the Dem side, Clinton led with 34% followed by Obama at 26%. No other Dem popped into double-digits as Edwards rec'd 9% and Richardson 7%.

Among Nevada Republicans, Giuliani led with 25%, followed closely by Romney at 20% and Huckabee at 17%. Thompson and McCain failed to register in double-digits with 9% and 7% respectively.