December 26, 2007

McCain's Turn To Surge?

We have seen each front-runner build momentum in the Republican primary, only to get their surge blunted in a hailstorm of criticism. John McCain may have his turn at this particular see-saw this week. Rasmussen now has him claiming at least an electability surge, as his numbers against Hillary Clinton improve to the best they have been all year:

With the first primary contests less than two weeks away, Senator John McCain has gained a six-point lead over Senator Hillary Clinton in the latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey.

A month ago, McCain had a two-point edge over the former First Lady. However, before that, Clinton edged out McCain by at least a point or two in six consecutive surveys of the match-up ....

The current survey finds that Clinton fares better in another match-up. She leads former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee 47% to 43%. Clinton has led Huckabee in six consecutive surveys with margins ranging from one to eight percentage points[.]

McCain has improved against the other Democratic candidates as well. He now leads Barack Obama in a head-to-head poll by two points. Like the other Republicans, he trails John Edwards, at the moment by seven. Edwards ties Giuliani, but beats Huckabee by 12 points, Romney by 16, and Thompson by nine. One wonders why the Edwards campaign doesn't tout electability more.

McCain's rise against Hillary looks more impressive in the crosstabs. McCain has a 15-point advantage with men, and a dead heat with women, negating Hillary's general-election advantage. Surprisingly, he beats Hillary in every age category, and even manages to win 23% of Democrats -- an indication that a Hillary nomination will suppress the Democratic turnout. McCain also gets 30% of the black vote, which would be historic for the Republicans in any presidential election, and comes within nine points on the non-white, non-black "other" ethnic category.

In Iowa as well as New Hampshire, voters have given McCain a serious boost, and he could win in the Granite State. Does that mean that McCain will be the next target? Probably, although in some ways it will be tougher to attack McCain than it was Huckabee or Thompson, or even Romney or Giuliani. McCain has maintained a very high profile for decades, involving himself in national issues and coming under plenty of scrutiny. His negatives have played out over the long haul, making him the most well-known entity in the race. Plus, McCain knows how to fight back -- which may make him a little more electable in another sense, especially against the Clintons.

McCain may have peaked at just the right time. We still have eight days to go before the Iowa caucuses, and less than two weeks before New Hampshire's primaries. Can he maintain enough momentum to make the electability sale?


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