25 February 2007
WHAT DO EARLY POLLS TELL US?
It was a reasonably quiet weekend on the presidential campaign front.
The New York Times tells us the religious right is still casting about for a candidate they can support. Newsweek reports they've found the perfect candidate, except for the fact that he's from the wrong family, at least for this moment in time.
Texas' Republican governor Rick Perry, and his Democratic counterpart from Pennsylvania, Ed Rendell, profess to have no interest in being No. 2 on their parties' tickets.
There's some talk that Al Gore is staying out of the race for now, but that he could get in very late because he has made enough money over the past eight years to finance his own way through the slew of early primaries.
And, while this has nothing to do with presidential politics, it's just too ironic not to mention. Al Sharpton and the the late Sen. Strom Thurmond apparently have some rather unpleasant family ties going back a ways.
One other story that caught my attention this weekend.
If history is any guide, it offers good news for Rudy Giuliani and some not-so-welcome news for Hillary Clinton.
Based on Gallup polling over the last thirty years, the Associated Press reports, there is a very clear trend regarding early presidential frontrunners.
Based on recent history, Hillary Clinton should not be picking out an oval carpet just yet.
Edmund Muskie in 1972, George Wallace in 1976, Ted Kennedy in 1980, Gary Hart in 1988, Mario Cuomo in 1992 and Joe Lieberman in 2004 were early frontrunners among Democrats. None won the nomination. -AP
(Hard to fathom that just four years ago Joe Lieberman was leading the Democratic polling).
The news is much better for Republican Rudy Giuliani:
Republicans have picked the early frontrunner in seven of the past 10 elections, according to Gallup polling. In the other three elections, Republican incumbents cruised to e-election. -AP
Whether historical trends hold up this time around is anyone's guess. But the Washington Post found one set of candidates who don't seem to be keeping up with recent history.
Since Jimmy Carter in 1976, every president except Bush I has gone either straight from the governor's mansion to the White House, or (Ronald Reagan) had been a governor in his most-recent stint in public office before becoming president.
This year, as the Post points out, governors in both parties are having trouble getting their footing.
Three polls came out over the weekend. None of them earth shaking.
A Cook Political Report/RT Strategies poll confirms a recent trend which shows some slippage for Republican John McCain. The Cook poll shows Rudy Giuliani opening up a nine point lead over McCain, that's up from just 2 points a month ago. When first- and second-choice votes are tallied, Giuliani leads 55 points to 42. The poll shows Newt Gingrich ahead of Mitt Romney both as a first choice and when first- and second-choice votes are counted.
On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton (42%) leads Barack Obama (20%) and John Edwards (16%). Obama and Edwards come somewhat closer to Clinton when first- and second-choice votes are combined.
The Pew Research Center put out a national poll over the weekend as well. The chief finding -- not a lot of folks are up for this early campaign stuff.
Some 84% of Republicans say they haven't zeroed in on a particular candidate yet, compared with 71% of Democrats. The numbers do indicate, according to the pollster, that Democrats are more into the race at this point then Republicans
"Democrats are further along than Republicans in thinking about possible presidential candidates. First, a larger percentage of the Democrats than Republicans are paying attention to the campaign (31% vs 20%). Notably, 38% of liberal Democrats say they have given the campaign a lot of thought, compared with just 24% of conservative Republicans. And while nearly half of Democrats (46%) volunteered a presidential candidate they might support, only 29% of Republicans named a candidate for whom they might vote."
Based on their knowledge of the candidates at this point, Democrats say many in the field have at least some appeal. In fact seven of the ten candidates named in the poll stand at least some chance of getting votes from 40% or more of those polled.
Among Republicans, five of 10 candidates have similarly broad appeal.
This poll slices and dices numbers in a zillion different ways and you can click on it here if you're really into numbers and you have all day. I will say in the personal traits area, the Democrats seem to have smaller hurdles to clear.
Only 4% of respondents said they are less likely to vote for a candidate because they are black (Obama) while 11% said they are less likely to vote for someone because they are female (Clinton) and 14% said they are less likely to vote for someone who is Hispanic (Richardson). On the other hand, 30% said they are less likely to vote for a Morman (Romney), 39% said they are less likely to vote for someone who has had an extra-marital affair (Giuliani) and a whopping 48% said the are less likely to vote for someone who is in their 70s (McCain). Obama could be in some trouble here too, as 45% said they are less likely to vote for someone who has used illegal drugs in the past and 18% say they are less likely to vote for someone who smokes cigarettes.
There was one other poll of note over the weekend.
Because California is moving its primary up to super-duper Tuesday (Feb 5) it's importance in the nominating process has been greatly enhanced.
According to a Datamar Poll, Clinton is ahead in California at 34%, Obama is second at 24% and John Edwards is at 16%.
On final trend of note in all three polls. Bill Richardson has pulled out of the 1%-2% range and into the mid to upper single digits. Richardson is the only Democrat other than the Dems' big-three showing any upward movement in recent weeks.