Mark Blumenthal | July 11, 2007
Topics: 2008 , The 2008 Race
If Senator McCain's public statements and the various news reports this morning are to be believed, he will remain in the race for the Republican presidential nomination despite the resignation yesterday of several top aides. Yet given the sense of "implosion" surrounding McCain's campaign, I would be shocked if the pollsters for his rivals are not using their internal data to answer this indelicate question: Where do McCain's supporters go if he drops out of the race?
My quick review turned up only one pollster -- RT Strategies/Cook Political Report -- that has so far reported recalculated vote preferences based on the second choice expressed by McCain supporters. The table below shows the initial vote preference from a mash-up of two June RT Strategies polls, as well as a vote without McCain and a vote without both McCain and Gingrich (the bigger "not certain" response for the latter includes those who chose both McCain and Gingrich as first and second choice). RT Strategies also tabulated two Republican primary subgroups that I have labeled "all" and "most likely." Both groups include those who say they "generally participate in primary elections or party caucuses" with the Republican rather than the Democratic party. The larger group ("all") includes self identified primary or caucus voters who volunteer that their choice of party "depends" on the election.
The results show that without McCain in the race, Giuliani's support increases by 7 or 8 percentage points, while none of the other candidates gets a boost of more than 2 points. This means that while Giuliani is the first choice of 20-21% of Republicans, he is the second choice of roughly 35-40% of those who supported McCain in June. So for the moment, a collapse in McCain's support should work to Giuliani's advantage.
This question has more significance in New Hampshire and South Carolina where McCain runs a few points higher (18% and 17% respectively) than he does nationally (16%), according to our trend estimates. As far as I can see, only the most recent WMUR/CNN/University of New Hampshire poll included a second choice question, but they have not yet released a recalculated vote without McCain.