Friday, December 21, 2007

Closing in on the Death Knell for the Giuliani Campaign

After the latest NH poll, the Giuliani campaign is getting perilously close to its "last throes." With only two weeks left before the NH primary, Giuliani sits in third place behind McCain and Romney, which would be fine.....except he is only at 11 percent. Worse, Paul and Huckabee sit only 2 points behind Giuliani.

I note that we have to be extremely careful when reading polls in general, and especially primary polls where the margin of error makes an even bigger difference (in this case, that 2 point lead could theoretically be as much as 10 or 12 and stay within the margin of error); indeed, this poll has the appearance of a potential outlier, though I have a hunch it merely reflects McCain's recent momentum. This news has got to scare the crap out of the Giuliani campaign. If in fact Giuliani has only a 2 point lead over Huckabee and Paul, this will likely translate into a slight deficit on primary day since support for those two candidates tends to be much more passionate. This could be important in the historically low-turnout primary stage. Worse news for Giuliani: less than half of his supporters are "certain." Indeed, when you only look at voters who are "certain" to vote for their candidate, this latest poll places Giuliani in a three-way tie at 5 percent with Huckabee and Paul.

Giuliani's campaign seems to have accepted the idea of him placing no better than third in NH, figuring they will be able to fall back on Florida. But this latest poll raises the legitimate specter of Giuliani placing as low as 5th in NH, below both Huckabee and Paul. To say the least, such a result would be an absolute embarassment for Rudy; it is hard to see him making it through to Super Tuesday if that were to happen. This of course would be terrific news for McCain, who Giuliani would presumably back if he were to drop out.

Some more interesting stuff from this poll:

Romney is holding on to his lead, but McCain is lurking as more and more of a potential upset. But with Rudy faltering, McCain may be able to stay in this race even without a NH win.

McCain's comeback has been largely at Giuliani's expense, as Giuliani actually easily wins the most "second-choice" votes, suggesting to me that there are a lot of voters who have switched from Giuliani in recent weeks, with McCain being the obvious beneficiary.

McCain wins easily on issues of understanding the average voter and, even more so, on standing on principle. He wins slightly on the question of who would accomplish things in Washington most easily, not surprising for a veteran Senator.

The issue of which candidate most shares a voter's values most closely parallels the candidate's support, even though Paul was apparently not included in the question (he was, however, frequently given as a volunteered answer- a very good sign for the strength of his support). In addition, Romney handily wins the question of who has the most innovative ideas and, surprisingly, who has the best chance of winning the general election. I suspect this last question is skewed by NH's proximity to Massachussetts, where Romney managed to govern a deeply "Blue" state. Nationally, the numbers don't bear that response out.

I must again stress that this poll must be taken with a grain of salt, as its "likely voter" model is somewhat controversial; certainly it is difficult to compare it with other polls. However, if it is in fact accurate, it paints a very bleak picture for the Giuliani campaign, which will need to make a very rapid push to save face. I can imagine little more embarassing to his formerly front-running campaign than for it to start with a fourth place in Iowa and a fifth place in NH. Not to mention a possible fifth place in SC.