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January 11, 2008

McCain Surges

If anyone films a documentary on the John McCain campaign, it ought to be George Romero. While the press had McCain as a dead man walking last summer, the Senator from Arizona has proven them all wrong -- and now looks as though he could sweep his way into Super Tuesday and the nomination. CNN has McCain taking a significant national polling lead, and he's jumped eight points above Rudy Giuliani in a Florida poll:

McCain has the support of 34 percent of registered Republicans in a CNN/Opinion Research Corp. survey out Friday. That's a 21-point jump from the last CNN/Opinion Research poll, taken in December, well before the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary earlier this month.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who won the Iowa Republican caucuses, is in second place in the new survey, with 21 percent of those registered Republicans polled supporting him for the GOP nomination.

Rudy Giuliani follows with 18 percent, a drop of six points from the December poll, when the former New York City mayor was the front-runner.

A few caveats are in order about the CNN poll. The sample isn't exactly sturdy. It only includes 397 registered Republicans, not likely primary voters. This doesn't make for a reliable predictive model, but at least one can see some trends that won't make the rest of the campaigns terribly happy.

One of those trends is voter enthusiasm. Among the entire Republican sample, McCain generates the highest amount of enthusiasm at 31%, and the lowest amount for dissatisfied and upset. Giuliani and Huckabee fall 10 and 11 points behind on enthusiasm, while Romney falls to the lowest enthusiasm number, 14%, among the top four candidates.

The Survey USA poll of Floridians looks more reliable, and the news remains good for McCain. They surveyed 502 likely Republican primary voters -- a stronger sample and one that is more predictive -- and found McCain in front of Rudy, 27%-19%. Huckabee and Romney tie at 17%, while Thompson comes in fifth at 8%. McCain takes all age groups but 18-34, and he wins 39% of black Republican votes (with Mitt a surprising second at 36%). Huckabee outdoes him in the panhandle and Romney on the Northeast, but McCain wins all of the other regions.

If McCain wins Michigan, he may build enough momentum to take Florida and all of its winner-take-all delegates. That will give him a lead and the momentum heading into Super Tuesday, and the potential to clinch the nomination. Rudy has to focus on his firewall if he wants to stop McCain from snatching the nomination with the cold-dead grip of a media-declared corpse, which is to say a lively candidate indeed.


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