Huckabee leads in a new poll out of South Carolina.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee surged to the top among Republican presidential candidates in South Carolina, while Sen. Hillary Clinton's lead over Sen. Barack Obama among Democrats narrowed since July in that state, according to a new poll.
The CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll of South Carolinians was released Friday Huckabee was the choice of 24 percent of South Carolina Republicans in the survey conducted by telephone between Dec. 9 and 12. When the same poll was conducted in July, Huckabee was in the lower tier with just 3 percent of support from registered GOP voters.
Former Sen. Fred Thompson was second with 17 percent, slightly down from his previous 18 percent.
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who led in July with 30 percent, dropped to a tie for third with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, both at 16 percent. Romney's showing was a major improvement of his 6 percent standing in the previous survey.
The poll showed Sen. John McCain falling from 21 percent in July - the second highest - to a fifth place 13 percent now. Rep. Ron Paul's 11 percent for seventh was a major boost from the two percent registered by the July survey.
The sampling error for the poll of Republican primary voters is 4 percent.
The survey suggested that one of Huckabee's main strengths was his personality.
In particular, he tops the list when likely GOP voters are asked to name the candidate who is most believable.
The poll of Democratic primary voters showed Clinton leading with 42 percent, Obama second at 34 percent and former Sen. John Edwards third with 16 percent.
The remaining Democrats were at 3 percent or less.
The poll's sampling error is plus or minus 4.5 for Democratic primary voters.
Obama, who moved up 7 points since the July poll, was helped by increased support among black voters.
While in July, 33 percent of African-American Democrats said they would vote for Obama, he now has 45 percent of their support compared to Clinton's 46 percent.
Among Democrats, 41 percent said they've definitely made up their minds about who they'll vote for in the primary, while 22 percent told pollsters early primary results could help them decide.
The remaining 36 percent said they don't know who they'll vote for, but those earlier primaries will not affect them.
Republican voters appeared less decisive about their choices, with just 25 percent saying their minds were made up, and 22 percent saying early primary results could help them decide.
The other 52 percent said while they're undecided, the earlier primaries will not affect their vote.
The poll also looked ahead to a possible general election with Hillary Clinton as the Democratic nominee and Mike Huckabee or Rudy Giuliani leading the GOP ticket.
The survey of South Carolina registered voters, which has a sampling error of 3 percent, showed Clinton with 48 percent versus Giuliani at 47 percent.
Huckabee edges Clinton 48-47 percent in the head-to-head poll.
Jimmy Carter, in 1976, was the last Democratic presidential candidate to win South Carolina's electoral votes.
The survey's question about what issues were most important to voters in determining their choice for president showed significant differences in the priorities between Republicans and Democrats.
Democrats placed Iraq and health at the top of their list with 31 and 30 percent respectively.
The economy was third at 24 percent, followed by immigration at 7 percent, terrorism at 3 percent and abortion at 3 percent.
The economy was the most important issue for 24 percent of the Republicans, while immigration was next at 23 percent, followed by Iraq at 16 percent, terrorism at 13 percent, abortion at 11 percent and health care at 10 percent.