Sunday, January 13, 2008

McCain is Favorite Nationwide, Poll Finds

Senator John McCain is favored by 33 percent, nationwide, for the Republican presidential nomination, the latest New York Times poll has found:

Republican voters have sharply altered their views of the party’s presidential candidates following the early contests in Iowa and New Hampshire, with Senator John McCain, once widely written off, now viewed more favorably than any of his major competitors, according to the latest nationwide New York Times/CBS News Poll.

The findings underscored the extraordinary volatility in the Republican race and suggested that the party was continuing to search for a nominee whom it could rally around. Nearly three quarters of Republican primary voters said it was still too early for them to make up their minds “for sure,” meaning that they could shift their allegiances yet again if one or more of Mr. McCain’s rivals breaks through in the two Republican primaries this week, in Michigan and South Carolina....

The survey was begun one day after the primaries in New Hampshire, where Mr. McCain won, and amounted to a snapshot of a Republican contest that remains remarkably fluid after almost a year of campaigning. While national polls are of limited value in predicting the outcome of primaries in particular states, they capture broad shifts in opinion, in this case a sharp movement for Mr. McCain after a big victory and a wave of media attention. Thirty-three percent of Republican primary voters in the poll named Mr. McCain, of Arizona, as their choice, up from 7 percent a month ago.

Mike Huckabee of Arkansas, whose favorability ratings jumped after he won in Iowa, was the choice of 18 percent of Republican primary voters. Rudolph W. Giuliani of New York, who is focusing his campaign on later contests, had the most precipitous fall; he was the choice of 10 percent of Republican voters, down from 22 percent last month. Support for other candidates was in single digits.

The poll also had worrisome signs for Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, who finished second in both Iowa and New Hampshire and is in a tough three-way battle in Michigan against Mr. McCain and Mr. Huckabee. Not only did support for him among Republican voters plummet over the past month, but he was also viewed much less favorably than a month ago.

Mr. McCain, a longtime maverick in his own party, was named by Republican primary voters in the survey as the candidate most likely to win his party’s nomination. Thirty-nine percent of these primary voters saw Mr. McCain as the likely nominee. Only 11 percent saw Mr. Giuliani prevailing.

Mr. McCain’s image ratings also have soared. More than half of the Republican primary voters (57 percent) — including more half of the conservatives — viewed him favorably in the new poll, compared with 37 percent in December.

“I don’t always agree with him on all the issues,” Jeff Little, a 34-year-old actuary and Republican from Apple Valley, Minn., said in an interview after he participated in the poll. “But I feel he, more than most politicians, tells you what he thinks.”

Patrick Herron, a 61-year-old retired social studies teacher from Syracuse, described Mr. McCain as “more of a moderate.”

“He’s willing to cross the aisles and work with the Democratic Party,” said Mr. Herron, another poll participant.
The poll also includes data on the Democratic Party favorites.

Heading into Tuesday's crucial Michigan GOP primary, voter preferences are unstable, with various polls showing nearly 4 out of 10 voters undecided as they prepare to head to their polling stations. The New York Times graphic below shows the unsettled nature of this weekend's surveys on the Michigan race:

The timing of the poll - out in hardcopy with tomorrow's edition, complete with banner headlines declaring McCain's national stature - is perfect for momentum-building.

See also Memeorandum.

Photo: Detroit News