December 27, 2007

Rasmussen: Huckabee On Top, Romney 4th

Rasmussen has a new national poll out that shows the Republican primary remains volatile. Mike Huckabee has maintained a lead he has held for over two weeks of daily polling, while Rudy Giuliani has begun to move back into a virtual tie -- and John McCain has crept into third place:

With just a week to go until the Iowa caucuses, the Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll continues to show five Republican hopefuls in double digits nationally. In the race for the Republican Presidential Nomination, it’s Mike Huckabee at 20%, Rudy Giuliani 18%, John McCain 14%, Mitt Romney 13%, and Fred Thompson at 11% (see recent daily numbers). Ron Paul currently attracts 5% of Likely Republican Primary voters nationwide.

An Inside Report by Robert Novak says that McCain is now “viewed by canny Republican professionals as the best bet to win the party's presidential nomination.” McCain has the highest favorability ratings of any candidate in either party—55%. He is viewed favorably by 43% of Democrats and 60% of those not affiliated with either major party (see key stats for all Republican candidates). McCain has opened up a six-point lead over Hillary Clinton.

McCain has a +20 favorability rating, easily the highest in the race, with only 10% undecided. The only other Republican with a positive rating now is Fred Thompson, with a +9 and 22% undecided. Everyone else has slipped into negative favorability -- an indication that the hard-charging attacks in the final weeks have taken their toll on everyone.

In head-to-head polling, McCain and Giuliani both fare best. Giuliani beats or ties all comers, while McCain has more space between himself and most of the candidates except John Edwards, who beats him by seven points. Mike Huckabee loses substantially to the three Democratic front-runners, as does Fred Thompson. Romney only beats Hillary Clinton by a point, and loses to Edwards by sixteen.

How does Huckabee remain on top while doing so poorly on head-to-head contests? It shows the unsettled nature of the GOP electorate. Huckabee has obviously made an emotional connection to a solid segment of the party, but his appeal does not cross the aisle, at least not yet. Giuliani does to some extent, but McCain makes the biggest draw from the center.

Mitt Romney's campaign strategy has never relied on national numbers. Still, this has to be somewhat disconcerting for Romney. He fell behind McCain for the first time in weeks, and that's with Thompson out of the way. A big win in Iowa would change his fortunes, but he has to win there first -- and then figure out how to elevate his favorability numbers into positive territory.

Robert Novak thinks McCain may be the last Republican standing. Perhaps. At the moment, he looks the most electable -- but that has changed a few times over the last few weeks. If he can surprise in Iowa, he may get his chance.


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