Thursday, January 17, 2008

McCain Holding Firm in S.C. Polling

I wrote yesterday on John McCain's lead in South Carolina polling heading into Saturday's primary.

So far, the Arizona Senator's holding firm, according to this afternoon's update to
Zogby's South Carolina tracking poll (via Memeorandum):

Arizona Sen. John McCain kept his lead in South Carolina in the second installment of the Reuters/C-SPAN/Zogby tracking poll. He is followed by former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, just as he was in the survey released yesterday. Their levels of support have remained static, with McCain holding steady at 29% and Huckabee losing just a point to stand at 22%.

There have been shifts lower down, however. Former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson has ousted former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney from the number three spot. Romney, who won the Michigan primary Tuesday, dropped a point, from 13% support to 12%, while Thompson jumped two points to 14%.

Also, Texas Congressman Ron Paul has edged ahead of former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani. But at 5% support, but Paul is ahead just by a fraction of a point. Giuliani, who is focusing his campaign efforts on Florida and who lost a point since yesterday’s tracking poll.

About 10% of likely voters said they were still undecided. The rolling tracking survey was taken between Jan. 14 and Jan. 16. The surveys included 815 interviews with likely voters, which included a margin of error of +/- 3.4 percentage points.

Among Republican voters, McCain gained a point to reach 30% support from his party. Huckabee, however, gained close to four points among Republicans, moving from 20% support to almost 24%. McCain, meanwhile, lost about four points among independent voters, sinking from 33% to 29% support. Huckabee, too, lost support from independents, but just by a point, going from 20% to 19%.

Romney saw his support slip among Republicans, as Thompson gained. Both were at 14% Tuesday, but Romney dropped to 13% while Thompson ticked up to 16%.

Paul, who had dominated among younger voters, lost ground in the 18-29 age group, going from 31% support to 23%. McCain jumped from 6% to 14% with younger voters, and Huckabee picked up four points to reach 32% support with that group. McCain continued to get most support from senior citizens and people aged 50 and over, though he lost a few points with those between 30 and 49. Huckabee’s support among those over 30 remained consistent.
But see also MSNBC, which has the results of a new McClatchy poll with McCain holding a slim lead over Mike Huckabee, a margin that's a statistical tie:

Two days until South Carolina’s GOP primary, John McCain and Mike Huckabee are locked in a virtual tie in that contest, according to a new MSNBC/McClatchy/Mason-Dixon poll.

McCain leads Huckabee by two points, 27%-25%, which is within the survey’s 5% margin of error. They’re followed by Mitt Romney at 15%, Fred Thompson at 13%, Ron Paul at 6%, and Rudy Giuliani at 5%. Eight percent say they’re undecided....

Looking deeper into the poll numbers, the McCain-Huckabee race in South Carolina shows a striking split between voters who think that leadership and strength are the most important qualities they’re looking for in a presidential candidate, and those who believe that sharing their values is the top quality.

Among the 43% of likely GOP primary voters who cite strength and leadership, 33% chose McCain -- compared with 19% for Romney and 17% for Huckabee. But among the 39% who say values, 37% picked Huckabee -- versus 19% who selected Thompson, 15% who went with Romney, and 12% who said McCain.

In addition, respondents who identified themselves as born-again Christians pick Huckabee over McCain, 33%-20%. Among those who aren’t born again, the split is McCain 39%, Huckabee 11%. Self-described born-again Christians made up 62% of the Republican sample.
Perhaps seeing the writing on the wall, Mitt Romney - just two days after his "big" win in Michigan - has quit South Carolina to focus his campaign on the Nevada Republican caucuses, also scheduled for Saturday. (Note that some reports have Romney hedging his decision to cede the state, going ahead with a big ad buy to flood South Carolina's media markets).

Meanwhile, Rudy Giuliani's late-entry, Florida launching pad strategy - which I've characterized as foolish -
is raising troubling questions back home.

I'm doubting the Giuliani's going to benefit much from the failure of a clear frontrunner to emerge. Perhaps something miraculous will happen...