Articles and Analysis


Pres08: Giuliani sinks, McCain rises

Topics: 2008 , The 2008 Race


I'm becoming convinced that my hasty, sensitive and mistake prone trend estimator, "Ready Red", has got the story right this time. For some time I've been watching the Giuliani and McCain trends. Since December, McCain has steadily trended down at a nearly constant rate. Giuliani has trended up over that time, but the trend estimator has been flattening out over the last couple of months, though still rising. That is based on "Old Blue", the conservative estimated trend line in the figure above. Blue is designed to be relatively slow to change direction but hard to fool with a handful of polls that represent more noise than new trend. But in this case, it is looking more and more like the trigger happy Red estimator has in fact picked up the current trend.

Charlie Cook at the Cook Political Report has graciously passed along the results of the latest Cook/RT Strategies poll, completed 5/11-13/07. This poll finds Giuliani at 25% and McCain at 24%. Two weeks earlier, 4/27-29/07, the Cook/RT Strategies poll found Giuliani at 28% and McCain at 21%. Given the sample sizes, which are typical of current national polling, this shift falls short of statistical significance. Nonetheless, this is in line with other recent polling trends and the sensitive Red estimator picks up this trend.

Giuliani spent a long time as the surprise front runner in the Republican nomination polls, leading McCain in the vast majority of polls. This was a mystery given Giuliani's liberal positions on abortion, gun control and gay rights. For people who follow politics closely, it was hard to believe that Republican constituents could set aside these positions which have been anathema to the "base" for nearly three decades. And yet he continued to lead and McCain fell steadily.

McCain's decline was somewhat less mysterious. His sponsorship of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance legislation, his opposition to the administration on torture, and his support for immigration reform have put him at odds with many on the right in the party.

But things have been changing recently. Giuliani appears to have benefited from a great many Republicans who simply did not know where he stood on these bedrock issues of conservative Republican principles. In the last two or three months that has begun to change as Giuliani has become the focus of news coverage that has emphasized his positions. Giuliani's recent clarification of his positions, and his performance in tonight's second Republican debate, is likely to further increase awareness among Republican voters.

While polling has found, somewhat surprisingly, that many Republicans say they are willing to overlook these issues I think there has been an inevitable drag on Giuliani, and that is now showing up in the Red estimator.

At the same time, McCain has tried to restart his campaign and it appears to have at least stopped his falling support and perhaps begun to produce some gains.

I am very slow to accept the responsive Red estimator because it is easy to be fooled by it. But the red trend for Giuliani has been quite consistent for some while. And the conservative Blue trend has been responding, if more slowly, by flattening out.

So I think the issue is now whether Giuliani can reverse his recent decline. His attempt at clarification and candor on abortion in particular is a huge risk if the Republican base cannot accept those positions. Given Giuliani's clarified position, McCain appears to have started looking a bit better to Republican voters. And to credit McCain, perhaps his restarted campaign is now playing to more of his strengths than it did in December through February.

Cross-posted at Political Arithmetik.


Gary Kilbride :

Meanwhile, I find it ironic that this post is immediately above one that highlights a very recent Strategic Vision poll from the vital swing state of Florida. The sample was May 11-13 and Guiliani leads McCain in Florida among Republicans, 32-20.

Strategic Vision is a GOP firm. Here is a link to their statewide polls. In all 15 from 2007, including states from many different regions, Guiliani leads McCain and the entire field. Often it isn't remotely close.


I seldom tout Chris Matthews, but one thing he's done lately really impresses me. When a pundit appears on Hardball and implies the voters aren't aware of Guiliani's stance on certain issues, Matthews sports a demeaning and disbelieving little grin before pouncing on the pundit. He's absolutely right to do it. I've posted on balanced sites for years, primarily political forums on sports sites, with overwhelmingly male posters. Right wing posters who I never dreamed would support someone with positions like that have touted Rudy for more than a year. The same people who are calling Guiliani toast right now are the ones who always insisted he would never lead a single GOP poll.

Maybe this all falls apart, and from a Democratic standpoint I hope Rudy does implode since he's the toughest candidate to defeat, but right now I'm enjoying my ticket on Guiliani to win the nomination at 10/1.


Chris G:

I'm wondering if many Repubs are practicing some of what Dems did with Kerry in 04. Maybe they're looking for a winner, not necessarily someone who represents their position on every issue.


Florida has no statewide organization. Relative to other states, it is much more of a name-recognition contest, so it has proven to be some of the most favorable ground for both Hillary and Giuliani.

I can't vouch for Strategic Vision in particular, but this still shows a significant weakening for Giuliani--he usually culls 40-45 percent in Florida.

As far as Giuliani goes, Republicans are not a purist crowd. It's not politically correct to say so, but secular gays dominate the media industry (as they do in espionage, politics, marketing, and other perception professions). Because they know very few pro-lifers, they tend to project a religious zealotry on the social conservative movement which has very little grounding in reality.

Giuliani could have finessed the prolife issue much more artfully than he has. IMO he has passed the point of no return, but had his campaign showed a modicum of _respect_ for socons (i.e. knowing what "strict constructionism" actually means), this implosion would not have happened.



John McCain suffered in that Hanoi Hilton in ways one supposes very few can understand.

But John's irrationality cannot be overlooked.
His utterly ludicrous optimism re Iraqnam must forever be held against him.

His rosy ideas on immigrationism are so scary there are no words...........




WhyWhyWicki! Then you must hold "Iraqnam" against the others as well. For everyone running agrees with him, unless you want Ron Paul and the blame for 9/11. I would at least prefer to have a candidate who can work with congress get things done and has the experience and credentials to defend America and make it the greatest nation on the earth once again. But that is just me. By the way McCain leads in the following primaries Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. You know what happens when you win in all the early primaries.


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