Wednesday, January 16, 2008

McCain Holds Edge in South Carolina

John McCain holds a lead in South Carolina, two new public opinion surveys out this week show.

Zogby finds McCain leading 29 to 23 percent over Mike Huckabee (via Memeorandum):

New York – Arizona Sen. John McCain is the leader in the South Carolina Republican primary race with 29% support, a Reuters/C-SPAN/Zogby tracking poll shows. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee is a strong second with 23%, and Mitt Romney is a distant third with 13%. The Republican primary election is Saturday. Democrats hold their primary in South Carolina a week later on Jan. 26.

Romney, however, is coming off a handy victory in Tuesday’s Michigan primary, defeating McCain, who had hoped to repeat his 2000 win in that state and continue the momentum generated from his New Hampshire victory.

The interviews of South Carolina likely Republican primary voters included in this report were completed before the Michigan GOP results were in. The survey including 813 interviews with likely Republican primary voters conducted Jan. 13-15, 2007. It carries a margin of error of +/- 3.4 percentage points. The daily tracking poll will continue up until the election.

The survey shows Former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson at 12%, just a point behind Romney. Only 5% said they liked former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, while 10% said they were still undecided.

Additionally, Ramussen on Monday had McCain up 9 percentage points over Huckabee:

Over the past several days, the only real movement in South Carolina’s Republican Presidential Primary has been a four-point gain for Fred Thompson and a five-point decline for Mike Huckabee.

The big winner from that trade-off is John McCain.

The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey shows McCain at 28%, Huckabee at 19%, Mitt Romney at 17%, and Fred Thompson at 16%. Rudy Giuliani and Ron Paul are tied with 5% support. Giuliani is betting his entire campaign on a strong showing in Florida, where he is now tied for the lead with three others.

The current results show McCain getting some breathing room in South Carolina. The previous South Carolina poll, conducted the night after McCain’s victory in New Hampshire, had McCain at 27% and Huckabee at 24%. Before the New Hampshire vote, Huckabee was leading McCain by seven points. McCain and Huckabee are pulling away from the field nationally in the Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll.

Thompson has been directly challenging Huckabee on the campaign trail and hoping to gain some traction that will keep his campaign afloat. Earlier this year, Thompson had hoped to exploit dissatisfaction with the rest of the field and emerge as the choice for conservatives. When his campaign failed to take off, Huckabee saw the same opening and capitalized on it in a way Thompson did not. As recently as November, Thompson was tied for the lead in South Carolina.

The race remains very fluid with 8% of voters undecided and 11% saying there’s a good chance they could change their mind.

The Zogby results are especially interesting in showing McCain gaining Republican across the state (and not only the coastal regions where he ran strongly in 2000).

Note that both surveys were conducted before Romney's Michigan win, who's likely to get a bump this week - although he'd need a lot of upward movement to dislodge either McCain or Huckabee.