Giuliani Has Highest Favorables in South Carolina
I've been trying to nail down this poll all day, and South Carolina expert Byron York finally delivers it.
Much to even my surprise, Rudy has far and away the highest favorable ratings among South Carolina Republicans.
Candidate Heard of Favorable Unfavorable
John McCain 96% 65% 23%
Newt Gingrich 95% 53% 31%
Rudy Giuliani 93% 78% 10%
George Pataki 69% 35% 18%
Bill Frist 66% 43% 21%
Mitt Romney 40% 41% 11%
George Allen 37% 38% 11%
Mike Huckabee 16% — —
Convert it to the net rating and it's Rudy +68%, McCain +42%, Romney +30%, Allen +27%, Frist +22%, Gingrich +21%, Pataki +17%. It's true that there's a New Yorker in this race who will never sell in the South. Except his name is George Pataki. Moderate New Yorkers bookend this poll in terms of favorability.
People carp about "name ID" skewing polls like this. I agree 100%. Romney or Huckabee just aren't where they'll be in February of '08. But a legitimate comparison can be made between candidates who are well known (Rudy, McCain, Newt), those who are moderately well known (Pataki, Frist), and those who are complete unknowns (Romney, Allen, Huckabee).
Among the universally well known candidates, Rudy beats McCain who beats Newt. Because they've been on the public stage for years, opinions of these leaders are the hardest to change. While opinions of these leaders are likely to take somewhat of a beating, their public personas are to some extent firm and fixed. McCain won't become a conservative hero. Rudy will never lose that association with 9/11.
In the welterweight category, Frist and Pataki have been on the public stage as "supporting actors" and have managed to rack up pretty high unfavorables, a fact that probably dooms their bids. Though there are theoretically 30% or 40% of Republicans who haven't heard of them who can be moved, everyone basically agrees that these two are dead in the water because of the baggage they've already collected manifested by their inability to move beyond a 2-1 favorable ratio.
It's not a coincidence that those considered the brightest stars in the field (at one point or another) share the fact of low name ID. They're clean slates. They can introduce themselves to the electorate on their own terms. They could easily rocket up to Giuliani/McCain heights by extending their 3 and 4-1 edge in favorability with the 60% who don't know them. Romney's nearly 4-to-1 favorable ratio has got to be encouraging from the standpoint of knocking down the LDS issue as a problem for his bid in the South.
Perhaps a more accurate measure might be the ratio of favorables to unfavorables. They are:
Romney 3.7 /1
Allen 3.5 / 1
McCain 2.8 /1
Frist 2.1 / 1
Pataki 1.9 /1
Newt 1.7 / 1
You'll notice that McCain hovers not too far above DOA status.