Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Polls Favor McCain in Florida, Arizona

New polling data on Florida's GOP primary shows John McCain holding a slight lead over Mitt Romney, a result within the survey's margin of error (via Memeorandum):

A new St. Petersburg Times poll shows the former Massachusetts governor and Arizona senator neck and neck among Florida Republicans, while Rudy Giuliani’s Florida-or-bust strategy has been a bust.

Among Florida voters likely to vote in Tuesday’s primary, 25 percent are backing McCain and 23 percent Romney, a statistical tie, while Giuliani and Mike Huckabee were tied for third place with 15 percent each.

In Florida’s odd candidate-free, campaign-free Democratic primary, Hillary Clinton is trouncing Barack Obama by 19 percentage points in a race with stark racial divisions. The poll found 42 percent backing Clinton, 23 percent supporting Obama and 12 percent former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards.

But it’s the volatile GOP race the nation is mainly watching, as Florida Republicans stand to have a huge influence over which candidates have a shot at competing as nearly two dozen states vote on Feb. 5. Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani staked his candidacy on Florida, and even with 27 percent of Florida Republicans saying they might change their minds, it looks like a bad gamble.

"Giuliani's decision to pull out of the early states is going to go down in history if he finishes out of the money in Florida as one of the worst political decisions,'' said pollster Tom Eldon.

The survey was conducted Jan. 20-22 for the St. Petersburg Times, Bay News 9 and the Miami Herald. It was conducted by telephone from a list of registered and frequent voters in Florida who described themselves as likely to vote Jan. 29.

The full sample of 800 interviews has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percent, while the margin of error for the Democrats is plus or minus 5.4 percent and for the Republicans it's 5.1 percent.

The poll included actor and former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson, who dropped out of the race Tuesday afternoon. But Thompson’s departure appears unlikely to change much as only 4 percent of those surveyed backed him, just ahead of Ron Paul with 3 percent.

The same pollsters in November found Giuliani leading the field by 17 percentage points, but since then his support in South Florida has dropped dramatically.

Where he dominated the region with 50 percent support in November and 70 percent support among Hispanic voters, the latest poll shows him trailing McCain by 10 percentage points in south Florida. His support among Hispanic was cut almost in half, with him and McCain effectively tied 36 percent to 33 percent.
Also, McCain's home state of Arizona has likely GOP voters backing their favorite son by a huge margin over his Republican challengers:

Arizona Sen. John McCain has opened a wide lead in his home state for the Feb. 5 Republican presidential primary, according to a poll released Tuesday. New York Sen. Hillary Clinton leads fellow Democrats by a similar margin.

McCain was the choice of 41 percent of likely GOP voters surveyed in Arizona State University's Cronkite/Eight poll. His closest rival, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, drew the support of 18 percent, leaving four other hopefuls with single digits....

McCain's lead represents a sharp rebound from a statewide poll last fall that put him behind former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. The new poll also suggests that voters are supporting McCain despite the strong distrust of him by many core GOP conservatives in the state and the nation.

On the Florida findings the interesting news is Giuliani's collapse.

I tend not to make predictions, but if I've made one strong claim throughout my campaign blogging, it's that Rudy Giuliani's Florida-launch-strategy
has so far proved to be a disaster in terms of media, momentum, and poll standings. I simply don't see the former New York Mayor making a dramatic turnaround by next Tuesday's voting, and I wouldn't be surprised if he exited the race before the February 5 round of national primary voting.

(Giuliani's even
fallen behind in his home state of New York - obviously not a good sign - and a new Quinnipiac University poll in New Jersey finds Guliani trailing McCain by 3 percentage-points).

As for the Arizona findings, it's remarkable that Grand Canyon State voters back McCain despite the controversy surrounding the Senator's conservative credentials.

I'm sure talk radio's going to get
even more fired up when they get a look at the data.