Wednesday, January 23, 2008

McCain Out Front in California Field Poll

A new survey on the GOP presidential nomination by the highly-respected California Field Poll finds Senator John McCain out front in the Golden State:

On a hot summer day at the Santa Clara Marriott, Sen. John McCain found himself on the defensive before a crowd of local business people having lunch: His campaign for president was imploding, his staff was resigning, his bank account was nearly empty. But he still told them all: "I can out-campaign anybody."

Sure enough, six months later, the Arizona Republican has surged to the top of the GOP heap in California, with 22 percent support among the state's voters, followed closely by former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney with 18 percent, a Field Poll published today shows. When Tuesday's withdrawal of Fred Thompson is factored in, polling shows an even tighter race between McCain and Romney, split by just 2 percentage points instead of 4.

Perhaps as impressive as McCain's resurrection from fourth place last month is former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani's dramatic drop. Once on top in California with 37 percent support - and still first with 25 percent last month - Giuliani has plummeted to a distant third with 11 percent, tying Mike Huckabee. Giuliani has skipped the early primary states and has been spending his time getting ready for the Florida primary next week, hoping to prove his all-eggs-in-Florida strategy will make polls like today's California Field Poll obsolete.

"All of us knew that there would be a period in January where there would be - let's just say - an awkward phase," said Bill Simon, chairman of Giuliani's California campaign. What this poll and polling across the nation shows is that the race is very fluid. Whoever happened to win the most recent primary gets a bump."

McCain already got two bumps in New Hampshire and South Carolina, giving him leads across the country just two weeks before Feb. 5, when California, New York and numerous other states hold their contests. But in California, McCain's lead is hardly strong. About as many voters are undecided - 21 percent - as support McCain. But today's poll shows McCain clearly takes away voters from Giuliani's core constituency - moderates and moderate conservatives. Support from strong conservatives is coalescing around Romney, instead of Huckabee, the former Baptist minister, who dropped to third from second place last month among California Republicans.
True, McCain's lead is hardly strong, although the Los Angeles Times also found McCain leading the GOP primary race in California.

Plus, as I reported in my previous post, the Arizona Senator's leading in surveys out today in Arizona, Florida, and New Jersey. McCain's also leading Giuliani New York.

We have two weeks before the February 5 Super Tuesday primaries. McCain's national momentum seems to be holding firm thus far.