Evening polls: Michigan still looks tight, but McCain is (by far) the most competitive in a general election

A few days to go to the Michigan primary, and Mitt Romney is looking to be more alive than people expected him to be following his dual IA and NH loss. Here are four new polls of the state -- one with a big McCain lead, one with a big Romney lead, two with toss-up. And the least reliable of the three (ARG) is the one that shows the best results for McCain, so Romney has everything to hope for going in the final days of campaigning.

  • The Detroit News poll shows a toss-up with McCain at 27% and Romney at 26%. Huckabee is behind at 19%. One important note: Romney leads among registered Republicans.

  • The Detroit Free Press poll gives Romney a comfortable lead, 27% to 22% against McCain, with Huckabee at 16%. Romney's lead is being clearly driven by those who name the economy as the top issue. Among that group, 42% would opt for Romney. Here again, Romney leads by 11% among registered Republicans, but a whooping 50% of the electorate has not decided or could still change its mind! One more interesting note: The pollster of the Free Press is Ann Selzer, the same one who nailed Iowa for the Des Moines Register two weeks ago.

  • The ARG poll has better news for McCain, showing him up 34% to 27% with Huckabee far behind at 15%. Ron Paul with 9% comes far ahead of Rudy's 5% and Thompson's 4%.

  • And, last but not least, Rasmussen has Romney at 26% statistically tied with McCain at 25%. Huckabee lags behind at 17%, with Thompson at 9%, Ron Paul at 8% and Giuliania at 6%.
It is truly remarkable how, state after state, Romney's totals have barely faded and that McCain and Huckabee have surged and passed him solely by relying on the collapse of other candidates. In New Hampshire, for example, Romney got 32% of the vote -- just where he was for most of the year. And now in Michigan, Romney has not dropped at all from where he was two weeks ago despite his two losses.

The bad news for Mitt, of course, is that Michigan is the last of the three states in which he was strong heading into 2008 (he could also get a win in Nevada, but no one really knows what is going there for now). In places like South Carolina and Florida, Romney can always not fade but it's not going to get him very far -- which is why he needs an early victory so bad to boost him up. Let's see if he can get it in Michigan.

And Democrats better hope he does beat John McCain, who is consistently looking to be the strongest general election contender for his party. A CNN general election poll just released paints a disastrous picture for Republicans -- unless McCain is the nominee. Meanwhile, Clinton and Obama poll sensibly the same:

  • Giuliani is being crushed by both Clinton (55% to 42%, up from a 6% lead last month) and Obama (56% to 40%).
  • Romney is even weaker, trailing Clinton 58% to 40% and Obama 59% to 37%.
  • Clinton and Obama also lead Huckabee by double-digits, respectively 56% to 42% and 58% to 39%.
  • But McCain stays in very close contact, as Clinton is only ahead 50% to 48% and Obama 49% to 48%.
That's right, Giuliani, Romney and Huckabee are all demolished by double-digits and McCain manages to tie. And the good news for McCain is that he replicates this in poll after poll. Here is a new survey from SUSA of the most important state come November, Ohio. The poll was released last week but I didn't get too talk about it since it was in the middle of New Hampshire season:

  • Clinton beats both Rudy and Romney 49% to 41%, though Huckabee manages to get within 1%, 47% to 46%. But McCain gets ahead, 48% to 46%.
  • Against Obama, the results are similar. Barack beats Rudy 49-41, Obama 51-39. But he ties Huckabee at 46% and he sinks against McCain, 50% to 43%.
Notice here also that Huckabee is much stronger than some people expect to see him, and that also is not an outlier as we have now seen many polls that have Huckabee stronger than Giuliani and Romney. Here is the last Kentucky poll from SUSA that was also released the same day as Ohio's, so it's now ten days old. Huckabee runs roughly equal with McCain and far far ahead of Giuliani and Romney who both struggle to keep a very red state red. Huckabee has no problem holding the GOP base.

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  • I wish Romney would just go away. I don't like him at all.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 13 January, 2008 00:09  

  • I've said it before and I'll say it again, McCain is the only Republican with a real shot at winning the White House in 2008.

    Every single Republican is hated by a key group of the GOP Base. (Giuliani is too liberal, Thompson is not religious enough, Huckabee is not fiscally conservative, and McCain is a 'maverick' when it comes to immigration and election reform.) However, McCain does well with independents, and that's his big advantage.

    Most GOPers will vote for the party regardless who is elected or who they are running against, but they won't be as enthusiastic. They won't donate as much money. They won't volunteer. They won't man phonebanks for GOTV operations. This will lower turnout and hurt every Republican running from president to senate, etc. all the way to state and local races.

    By Anonymous C.S.Strowbridge, At 13 January, 2008 07:08  

  • Even if he is doing well now, should he get the nomination, and I doubt he will, McCain will get creamed in the GE.

    By Blogger Mark, At 13 January, 2008 07:55  

  • C.S., GOP turnout may well depend on the Democratic nominee. If it's Obama, you may well have a point. If it's Clinton, on the other hand, Republicans will probably turn out en masse to vote against HRC, which would have the effect of helping a lot of Republicans.

    Mark, it's way too early to start predicting what will happen in the general election. We have ten months to go, and neither party's attack machine has had a chance to get geared up yet, to say nothing of the 527s. The Democrat, whoever s/he is, will obviously start off favored, but if McCain is the nominee, I highly doubt he'll "get creamed."

    By Anonymous Mr. Rational, At 13 January, 2008 16:48  

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