Yesterday, the Rudy Giuliani campaign promoted the results of polling by several groups last month, surveys which shows that Giuliani has more strength in traditionally blue states than other Republicans, especially the former “maverick” John McCain. Once expected to be the centrist candidate of choice, and even a risk for an independent bid that would capture the center from both parties, McCain seems to have ceded most of that ground to Giuliani, at least at this early stage of the campaign:
|California||33%||19% (Gingrich)||ARG – Jan. 11-17|
|Florida||30%||16% (Gingrich)||ARG – Jan. 4-9|
|Illinois||33%||24% (McCain)||ARG – Jan. 11-14|
|Michigan||34%||24% (McCain)||ARG – Jan. 4-7|
|Nevada||31%||25% (McCain)||ARG – Dec. 19-23, ‘06|
|New Jersey||39%||21% (McCain)||Quinnipiac – Jan. 16-22|
|North Carolina||34%||26% (McCain)||ARG – Jan. 11-15|
|Ohio||30%||22% (McCain)||Quinnipiac – Jan. 23-28|
|Pennsylvania||35%||25% (McCain)||ARG Jan. 4-8|
|Texas||28%||26% (McCain)||Baselice Jan. 17-21|
The Battleground Poll, one of those cited by the Giuliani campaign, makes a less impressive case for Giuliani as the front-runner. The analysis by Ed Goeas shows both men to be neck-and-neck in the race, with almost the same exact favorable/unfavorable ratio (2.5:1) and similar results against the prospective Democratic candidates. Both mean beat Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama by a wide margin, a result that has to worry Hillary. As Goeas notes, she has been such an imposing national figure that she has almost no untapped well of voters to reach; she will have to convince people who already don’t like her to change their minds, a difficult task to accomplish.
Of course, Goeas uses national numbers to calculate his predictions. Giuliani’s team does a better job at analyzing the race on a state-by-state basis, which is how primaries and general elections for President get conducted. Rudy’s strength in places like California and Michigan will not have much impact on either, since they have late primaries and traditionally go Democratic in the general election anyway. Rudy’s comparative strength in Florida, New Jersey, Ohio, and Pennsylvania should be taken more seriously, especially Florida. The GOP has to hold that state to have any chance of winning the Presidency, and so far Newt Gingrich comes in second with only 16% in the Sunshine State. He also outpolls McCain in North Carolina, where one might expect the more conservative McCain to have an edge. It makes one wonder who would be the better candidate to hold the South.
Goeas also mentions that Mitt Romney remains a wild card, one that could disrupt the normal process of Republican primaries by becoming a credible third choice in the race at primary time. His favorability ratio is about the same as McCain and Giuliani, but he has a much larger pool of people unfamiliar with him. If he mounts an excellent campaign, he could wind up as the dark horse, able to define himself in a manner tuned to the party at the right time. His big advantage is his ability to raise money and his lower national profile, an interesting (and rare) combination.
This shows pretty clearly that the Republican nomination remains wide open between these three candidates. It also hints that the door may have more or less closed on anyone else, even at this early stage. With two well-regarded candidates and one other with the money to build his own national profile, the prospects of anyone without an established national reputation cracking into the top tier seems rather remote.