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August 3, 2005
Is It 2008 Already?

Gallup has decided to get a head start on the next presidential election by beginning to build its polling data now to read trends and create projections for later in the cycle. However, one handicap presents itself -- a lack of declared candidates. Instead of waiting for volunteers, Gallup simply picks the two likeliest candidates from each side, in its own humble opinion, and asks registered voters who they prefer.

Gallup predicts that John McCain and Rudy Giuliani will emerge as the GOP frontrunners. For the Democrats, Gallup predicts that Hillary Clinton will face John Kerry in the primaries as her biggest rival. In that, they must be the only people other than Kerry himself to take his remaining potential as a major candidate seriously. Their own polling shows that; for the first time ever, more voters disapprove of Kerry than approve of him (48-42). And Kerry hasn't even begun campaigning!

Putting aside Kerry, Gallup may have selected the other candidates reasonably well, although Giuliani's entry into the race is far from certain. Interestingly, Gallup picked two moderates and no conservatives for the GOP, while they picked two liberals and no moderates (like Gov. Phil Bredesen of Tennessee) for the Democrats. I think it highly unlikely that Republicans will settle for a choice between two centrists in the primary, and even less likely that the conservatives will settle on McCain as their standard-bearer. He has spent too much of his political capital on press performances while turning his back on Republican goals in the Senate. Giuliani generates broader respect, even if his politics gives him the tinge of Nelson Rockefeller. More likely would be Giuliani against a conservative, possibly one of the governors or George Allen, who serves in the Senate now but has held executive office before.

Not surprisingly, both Giuliani and McCain score remarkably similar scores against Hillary Clinton, who almost everyone figures will win the Democratic nomination. Both GOP candidate beat her, 50-45. (They both cream Kerry, 54-41, meaning that Kerry without Bush-hatred has no standing except for the base, who would vote for Nixon if he ran as a Democrat.) All that tells us is that a moderate will beat a liberal in a general election -- hardly a stunning outcome. Gallup could easily reverse that result by pitting Bredesen or Mark Warner against, say, Rick Santorum or Jeb Bush.

Gallup had the right idea in building a model that could be used for tracking electoral trends. They may have done better to poll for better frontrunners than the quartet they anointed for the first round, Hillary notwithstanding.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at August 3, 2005 10:26 PM

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