Articles and Analysis


Pres 08: The Republican Primary Race

Topics: 2008 , The 2008 Race


(Click the figure for full resolution. For a full resolution collector's edition 11 x 17 version of this graph in .pdf format, click here. They make great holiday gifts.)

The 2008 presidential races are off to a running start, with candidates announcing, dropping out, changing their minds. And one of the leaders in the polls says she isn't running (Condoleezza Rice).

In this first post of the primary season, we look at the Republicans.

The data here represent EVERY person who has been included in ANY poll's list of potential candidates (and in the case of California Governor Arnold Schwarzennegger isn't even legally eligible for the office.) I've thought about editing the graph to remove those who have not become serious candidates, or who have tried and failed. But there is some virtue in a comprehensive look at the entire field as defined by pollsters' questions.

I plot the trend line only after 10 polls are available for a candidate. The poll results are represented by gray points in each graph regardless of how many polls are available, including those candidates who have appeared in only a single poll.

One notable result stands out. Former New York City Mayor Rudolf Giuliani continues to hold a small but reliable lead over Arizona Senator John McCain. Of 39 polls with both names in the list of candidates, Giuliani leads McCain in 30 with four more ties. McCain leads in only 5 polls.

That doesn't seem to me to be the message I've been getting from the media, so I did a little research. I searched Lexis/Nexis for "McCain" and "frontrunner" in the same paragraph, but "Giuliani" NOT in the paragraph. I then did the opposite. And finally for both mentioned in the same paragraph with "frontrunner". The results don't seem to reflect the polls. Using "American Newspapers" as a broad sample of papers, and 5/1/2006-12/19/2006 as the date range, I found:

McCain, frontrunner, NOT Giuliani: 270 articles
Giuliani, frontrunner, NOT McCain: 28 articles
Both with frontrunner: 76 articles

So I was relieved to find that my impression of media coverage as MUCH more favorable to McCain was not just a delusion. It also appears at strong odds with the polling data. Giuliani leads McCain by an average of 3 points in the 39 polls. Not a huge lead, but a very consistent one.

Much of the reporting seems to downplay Giuliani's chances of winning the Republican nomination, but given the negative opinion of McCain among many conservative Republicans, I wouldn't assume McCain can win easily either.

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich is usually in third place in the polls, showing considerable strength for someone who has been out of office for as long as he. Gingrich is, however, far behind both Giuliani and McCain.

Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney has shown slow but steady growth in support, though he remains far behind as well. Not surprising at this point when name recognition counts for a great deal in these early polls.

None of the other potential candidates are so far generating much growth in support. In fact, none of these candidates outside the top 4 (top 5 if we count Rice) are averaging support of as much as 10%, and most are struggling to get to even a 3% average. Despite the dismal numbers I don't think that counts out these candidates at this point. There are substantial reasons to wonder if ANY of the top 4 of Giuliani, McCain, Gingrich or Romney can capture the Republican nomination, and that implies that there will be an opportunity for one of these "virtual unknowns" to emerge as a serious contender. It is a very long time until the Iowa caucus.

I'll take a look at the Democrats tomorrow, and we'll put it all in historical perspective soon.

Cross-posted at Political Arithmetik.



As somebody who:

1) Likes both Giuliani and Romney, as far as somebody to support.

2) Loves the idea of Gingrich being in the race as a sanity check

3) Finds the media fawning of McCain to be nauseating

I'm encouraged by these results. One other thing that's standing out to me right now about '08 polling....

NPR had a story about their generic poll gauging the parties. Not surprisingly, the generic Republican trailed the generic Democrat by a wide margin (22 points, IIRC).

The fact that Giuliani and McCain are polling as well as they are against Clinton and Obama, considering this generic deficit, should be encouraging to them....because I have to imagine that this generic deficit won't last.



...They make great holiday gifts.

You have very, very strange relatives.

Merry Christmas. ;-)



Who's being polled? (Republicans, likely primary voters, general respondents?)

Thanks for highlighting the media's anointing McCain.


David Hecht:

Every one of my lefty friends is convinced that Giuliani has zero chance to win the nomination because of his social views. I try to patiently explain that--to the extent there are single-issue voters numerous enough to swing the nomination--they are probably (like myself) "national-security voters": those for whom the issue of "who will fight the GWOT most effectively" trumps all others.

Giuliani knows this, and expects to ride it to victory. And judging from the positions McCain has taken lately, he knows this also and is repositioning himself as a national-security focused candidate (which is why the media have "taken the shine off" him lately).

The reality is that social-agenda voters can easily deal with those with whom they disagree: they just expect honesty and integrity on the issues. You're better off doing a Giuliani--being forthright and unapologetic--than a Romney--changing the cut of your coat to fit your cloak.


park slope pubby:

Love Giuliani. Love him, love him, love him (and I'm VERY right wing). Why? Becuase he ran for mayor in the most liberal city in the US (except San Francisco, I guess), he won TWICE, and he GOVERNED as a conservative; with the media crucifying him every day, he never wavered. On an international basis, which doesn't have much to do w/ mayor, he DID refuse to shake Arafat's hand, and he DID turn down the Arab prince's money.



As a liberal, I agree with park slope. Giuliani SAVED NYC; not once but twice. The media are obsessed with social issues in politics and they are blinded by racial guilt. Thus they believe that Giuliani cannot survive GOP primaries in which, they believe, social issues will dominate; and they promote a former state legislator who has been in the Senate for all of two years as a real threat to Hillary.

If Giuliani or Rice gets the GOP nod, either one has my vote; otherwise, I want to bring back the Clinton administration: balanced budgets, entitlement reform; and free trade.


Another social and fiscal conservative for Giuliani.



Giuliani will get the primary nod -- because he DEMONSTRATED LEADERSHIP IN A TIME OF NATIONAL CRISIS, and demonstrated it in spades. Who else on either side of the aisle has those bonafides? As for McCain, he's p'ed off the party faithful too many times, which is exactly why the MSM regards him as the Republican they'd most like to see get the nod. They could almost live with him as President . . . . .



first jim:

I think too much is made out of Giuliani's handling of 9-11. He was only mayor for a few months after. Bloomberg deserves a lot more credit for leadership as he had to implement a lot of homeland security programs and actively manage the city for years after the fact. But you'll never find this sentiment in the minds of most americans-- Rudy Giuliani is the hero of 9-11, end of story. This common view tends to overlook his outstanding record pre-attacks as a prosecutor going after organized crime, and renewing NYC.

now jimbo:

If you're a liberal, you're an interesting one. I for one am sick and tired of the wedge politics social issues. I hope that the 2008 election will be about a lot of substantive issues that have come to the fore recently. You mentioned entitlement reform (*a BIGGIE) but also global competitiveness. I'd like to see some of the things come back in style that you mention. Not so sure free trade will be on the table with Sherrod Brown-Dems holding both houses now. Furthermore I doubt Hillary will be the one to bring us back to those issues because...

just like Obama, and like George W. Bush (6 yrs. elected office experience in a part-time legislature state) her resume is too thin. Same could be said for Romney. Please let's not elect political novices to this nation's highest office anymore!

Nobody talks about Tommy Thompson though he set up an exploratory committee. A three term governor and head of NIH. That's experience! Add to it a governor who instituted the model for 1996 welfare reform in his state.

I like McCain, Thompson and Giuliani in a real contest on issues. Don't know who I favor yet, but those three will make it interesting if they show a plan for the future instead of detouring into social issues. As for the Dems, let them continue to self-implode until a Warner or Bayh-like Wm Clinton successor emerges to lead them out of the wilderness.


Pretty nice site, wants to see much more on it! :)


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Thank you!



I was wondering why Ron Paul has not even been discussed on the page. Perhaps because the average Republican refuses to leave their own narrowminded view. However, in a race like this, the republican party needs to compromise. The Republican party cannot win a race with a pro-iraq war president with a country that is against the war. Mr. Paul also seems to be the one republican who has not forgotten our constitution, something that even appears to be forgotten by our president.


Shepard Humphries:

I am a registered Indepen, but I am voting for Ron Paul.... if I am given the oppurtunity. He seems to be the one guy this year that all parties could vote for, rather than the alternative of voting for the "lesser evil."


Lorenzo Caballero:

I've been reading alot about Ron Paul and favor his constitutional style. He uses our constitution as a reference when making governmental decisions. This is exhibited clearly by his voting record. A return to our constitution is the only way for "we the people" to re-fasten our reigns on our bloated, unaccountable, run-away government. His bio and voting record are easily found the web.


What about Ron Paul!!! Google Ron paul!


What about Ron Paul!!! Google Ron paul!


I could have sworn that you promote this set of graphs as a comprehensive compilation of ALL Republican candidates. You even include Schwartzenagger who isn't eligible. I just have one question: Where the hell is Ron Paul? One of my biggest frustrations with media pundits is when they pretend to be unbiased, but aren't. Ron Paul is the ONLY candidate (Democrat or Republican) who has the guts to promise people nothing except freedom from government meddling and theft. Gee. I wonder if that is the real reason he is not included in your "all-inclusive poll." Because he has excluded himself from the collectivist subjegation of individuals to the state. Your "poll" is a sham.


Keith Monaco:

Where is Ron Paul? I don't care about the rest of the corrupt, greedy and phony candidates.

Bias much?


Keith Monaco:

Where is Ron Paul? I don't care about the rest of the corrupt, greedy and phony candidates.

Bias much?



Giuliani is one of the most corrupt political figures. He is not stable. He divorced his wife on live television during a political conference. That is extremely unprofessional. Then he went on to marry his very young, second cousin. He is one messed up guy who has nothing positive in his favor politically except for the fact that he gave a speach for the cameras after 911. As if he's the only person in a Mayor position that would have done all they could to try to help out in that situation. He hasn't done anything to prove that he's a good candidate.

This is not someone who the American People should want representing them.



Giuliani is not a conservative.
He ran a sanctuary city in NY. Spit in the face of the INS and to think he was a former federal prosecutor. This guy also made over 11 million within a year off the tragedy we all know as 9/11. His second cousin was his first wife not his THIRD. I think our nations highest office deserve someone with a little more family values and morals. Giuliani makes Bill look like a choir boy.



We RON PAUL suporters need to do as much as we can to remind republicans that America is great because of, not in spite of, the Constitution. RON PAUL is the ONLY candidate that understands, and fights for that. The rest of the candidates are hucksters banking on Americans failing to see that.


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