Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Republican Race is Free-For-All

The new Washinton Post poll finds Mike Huckabee's pulling up to Rudy Giuliani nationally:

Three weeks before the first contest of the 2008 campaign, Republicans remain sharply divided over whom to choose as their presidential nominee and which of the five leading candidates best embodies the core values of a fractured GOP, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

Former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani continues to lead the Republican field in the national poll, but his support is at its lowest point this year. Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor, has more than doubled his support among likely GOP voters since early November and runs just behind Giuliani.

Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, former senator Fred D. Thompson (Tenn.) and Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) also draw double-digit support in the new poll, hinting at a potential free-for-all when the voting begins in Iowa and New Hampshire early next month.

The Democratic race nationally continues to feature Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) far ahead of Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) and the rest of the field. But a highly competitive campaign in Iowa pitting Clinton, Obama and former senator John Edwards (N.C.), along with signs of a tightening contest in New Hampshire, suggest that the Democratic race is also far from settled.

The new poll found that the issues driving voters are shifting rapidly. Concerns about the economy are on the rise and assessments of current conditions in Iraq have eased slightly, propelling the nation's economic picture and jobs to the top of people's concerns. Although the range of issues could further destabilize the nomination battles, most of the uncertainty stems from more basic questions about the candidates.

In the Republican race, Huckabee's surge in Iowa, where he has overtaken longtime front-runner Romney in recent polls, has begun to translate to the national stage, further shaking up a race that has been volatile from the outset.

Although many of the candidates have been campaigning for nearly a year, the Republican electorate appears more fragmented now than at any previous point in the race. Asked which candidate best reflects the core values of the Republican Party, 18 percent said McCain, Giuliani and Huckabee were each cited by 16 percent, 14 percent picked Romney, and 13 percent named Thompson. As if to punctuate the confusion, 16 percent said they had no opinion.
I like that last set of stats: John McCain polls highest on core GOP values!

As I noted yesterday, McCain's picking up a lot of favorables in national polling, which could translate into more electoral support in the series of primaries held after the contests in Iowa and New Hampshire.

I still think it's a long-shot for him, but as the Post notes, "the Republican electorate appears more fragmented now than at any previous point in the race."

We'll see.

See also my posts on recent media endorsements of McCain, here and here.