By Jonathan Allen
NEW YORK (Reuters) - President Barack Obama has a razor-thin lead with voters over potential 2012 Republican challenger Mitt Romney, according to a McClatchy-Marist nationwide poll released on Wednesday.
The poll found Romney, a former governor of Massachusetts who ran for president in 2008, was the most popular among potential Republican candidates for the presidency, followed by former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee.
In an Obama-Romney contest, 46 percent of voters said they would support the current president, 45 percent said they would vote for Romney and 9 percent were undecided. Obama had a five-point lead over Huckabee, whom 43 percent of voters said they would support if he became the Republican candidate.
"If there is a silver lining for (Obama's) reelection, it's the lack of clarity in the GOP field," Lee M. Miringoff, Director of the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion, said in a statement announcing the findings.
Romney and Huckabee were the leading potential GOP candidates among Republican and Republic-leaning independent voters, garnering 18 and 17 percent of support respectively among 14 potential nominees. Next in line were businessman Donald Trump (13 percent), former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani (9 percent) and former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin (8 percent).
McClatchy-Marist based its findings on a sample of 1,274 adults interviewed by telephone earlier this month. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
In a separate poll released by Quinnipiac University on Wednesday, New Jersey voters gave Obama higher points for job approval and likability than their governor, Chris Christie, a Republican, who said earlier this year that he "could win" against Obama in 2012.
A majority -- 52 percent -- said they would reelect the president in an Obama-Christie contest, compared with 39 percent who said they would send their governor to the White House. Asked for a word to describe Christie, 140 voters volunteered that he was a "bully"; the second most popular adjective was "arrogant" with 41 votes.
The survey was based on telephone interviews with 1,532 registered voters in the state and has a margin of error of 2.5 percentage points.
(Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Jerry Norton)