Manchester, NH (CNSNews.com) - Despite reports of his alleged bad temper, more and more New Hampshire voters are finding more and more to like about Arizona Senator John McCain.
The latest telephone poll of 250 likely New Hampshire voters - a poll conducted by WNDS-TV and Franklin Pierce College -- shows the former Naval aviator continuing to inch upward in the Republican battle for the February first, first-in-the nation primary contest.
The survey, conducted Sunday through Wednesday, shows Texas Gov. George W. Bush with 38 percent support and McCain trailing, but gaining, at 30 percent.
As recently as a month ago, Bush led McCain by as much as 13 percentage points. In late summer, McCain trailed badly at seven percent, while Bush led with more than 50 percent support.
The latest tally has a margin of error of plus or minus six percentage points.
McCain, speaking Thursday on the New Hampshire seacoast (several hours before the poll results were officially released) said he is pleased with the progress of his up-hill fight against Bush.
Many party activists credit McCain's near surge as resulting from his willingness to appear early and often in this state, which prides itself on "retail" politics. McCain's many visits to New Hampshire compare with Bush's infrequent appearances at carefully staged and orchestrated events.
McCain has held more than 40 town meetings across the state, and he freely takes questions.
A growing number of activists insist Bush's decision to skip two recently televised debates also has contributed to his erosion in the polls.
Other GOP aspirants are running far behind Bush and McCain.
Publisher Steve Forbes registered 11 percent, the first time he hit double digits in this particular poll, while former Reagan domestic policy advisor Gary Bauer registered three percent, followed by Alan Keyes and U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch at two percent each.
Twelve percent of those surveyed remained undecided.
In the Democratic contest, the survey showed former New Jersey Sen. Bill Bradley with a seven-point lead over Vice President Al Gore.
While Bradley is favored by 43 percent of the 248 likely Democratic voters, Gore came in at 36 percent. Twenty eight percent of those surveyed remain undecided, and the margin of error in the Gore-Bradley contest was six points.