NH Poll: McCain a Weak Frontrunner?
As noted by Kavon over at Race42008, we've gotten a trickle of New Hampshire polling after a recent dearth of it. McCain leads the field based on residual goodwill from 2000, with 32 percent of the vote. Rudy is at 19 percent and Mitt Romney is at 15 percent. What's my perspective on this poll as a Giuliani supporter?
As good as things look for Rudy right now, polls like this show why we shouldn't get cocky. McCain holds down honest-to-God leads in New Hampshire, Michigan, and probably South Carolina, states where he won or cracked 40% last time. Since the average voter probably hasn't thought about Presidential primary politics since they cast that vote in 2000, these leads should not surprise anyone. In states where voters didn't have the experience of voting for McCain in large numbers, he barely moves the needle.
At the end of the day though, these primaries going to be decided by what happens in '07 and early '08, as new information displaces the experience of voting in the 2000 primary. Does past success guarantee future results? Just ask George H.W. Bush, who shocked the world in Iowa in 1980 only to finish third there 8 years later.
As it is, McCain looks much weaker in New Hampshire than he did in 2000, when no one could lay a glove on him. In his breakout state from 2000, McCain has already picked up two strong challengers in Giuliani and Romney. He leads the field far and away in the "like least" category, with 19 percent. (Rudy is way, way down the list at 4 percent.) And Rudy actually leads him in net favorability, 15 to 13 percent. Great fav/unfav ratios like this are what breakout primary performances are made of. Interestingly enough, Romney has picked up some opposition with his double-digit support, with 10 percent saying they like him least.
A week out from New Hampshire, it's very unlikely we will be looking at a three man race. The gravitational pull of frontrunner status and the winnowing process of Iowa will make it a two-man race. If McCain falls to Earth (which is my hunch), expect Rudy to grab the lion's share of his support. If Romney falters for whatever reason (less likely), Rudy becomes the anti-McCain.