SENATE majority leader Bob Dole would be in a tight race if retired Gen. Colin Powell enters the New Hampshire primary, but otherwise has commanding support in the state, reports a poll by a Manchester, N.H. TV station.
If General Powell were not in the race, 34.9 percent of the 483 Republican voters surveyed would vote for Senator Dole. Some 21 percent are undecided. When asked if Powell's entering the race would change their vote, only 37.6 percent said the would stay with their original candidate.
Powell would get 31 percent if he runs and an equal number would consider him. But Powell has the highest favorability rating among New Hampshire Republicans, with 46.3 percent saying they had a favorable opinion of him. Dole ranked 42 percent, and Buchanan and Gramm were tied at 25 percent.
Powell, promoting his book in London, said in an interview with the BBC radio on Monday that he was still uncertain about whether to take the plunge. ''The searching that is going on in my heart and soul right now is: Is this the right thing to do? Can I bring the passion to it that it requires?'' he said.
''My highest ambition was not to become a politician at the highest level, it was to do my very best in the military,'' Powell added.
The New Hampshire poll was conducted between Oct. 1 and 4 by the Rockefeller Center at Dartmouth College for WMUR-TV. The margin of error was plus or minus 3 percent.
The voter support poll shows the rest of the present pack scrambling for second place.
Commentator Patrick Buchanan took 8.8 percent, while magazine magnate Steve Forbes, who has been in the race two weeks, took 6.7 percent. Former Tennessee Gov. Lamar Alexander got 6.6 percent, Texas Sen. Phil Gramm 6.2, and Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter 1.9.
Many voters appear to be holding out for an alternative to the pack, with 11.2 percent saying they would vote for Powell, Newt Gingrich, or someone else.
When asked if the 1996 presidential election were held today, and the candidates were President Clinton, Dole, and Powell as an independent, 42 percent of Republican respondents said they would vote for Dole. Powell came in second with 39.5 percent, while Clinton took 15.8.