In tight Florida race, some (small) evidence of a Crist boost for McCain

We are 24 hours from what is potentially the most important race in the GOP nomination, and whatever small edge Romney might have been building after a week of discussion of the economy has probably been erased by the deluge of good news McCain received over the week-end. Not only did he manage to switch the subject to national security and draw lots of praise from Mike Huckabee, but the headlines throughout the state were focusing on the endorsement of Governor Crist.

With that, let's get to the (many) polls released from Florida today, starting with those that were not taken post-Crist:

  • Quinnipiac shows John McCain barely edging Romney 32% to 31%, with Giuliani at 14% and Huckabee at 13%. This poll was on the field Thursday to Sunday, so not very useful to determine any last-minute shifts.
  • Among Democrats, Clinton is up 50% to 30% on Obama.

  • ARG was in the field Friday-Saturday and shows a significant Romney improvement: Mitt edges McCain 33% to 32%, with Huckabee at 14% and Giuliani at 11%. Two days ago, Romney was only at 26%. Notice that ARG is including 4% of "independents" in the poll which is strange given that Florida is a closed primary!

  • Strategy Vision, whose field dates are still unclear. They show McCain edging out Romney 27% to 26%, with Giuliani at 17% and Huckabee at 15%.

  • And with that we get to Datamar, which was in the field Friday to Sunday and which is a complete outlier compared to anything else, showing Romney at 36% ahead of McCain at 23%!
Finally, we have two polls that explicitly measure the Crist effect and find a noticeable McCain boost following the endorsement:

  • Zogby's tracking poll first of all has McCain bumped 3%, now leading 33% to 30% with Giuliani at 14% and Huckabee at 11%. Zogby adds that Sunday was a big day for McCain, who led 38% to 31% on Sunday alone.

  • The worst news for Romney comes from Rasmussen, whose survey was entirely in the field on Sunday. In a poll released just yesterday, Romney was ahead 33% to 27%. 24 hours later, it's tied at 31% with Giuliani at 16% and Huckabee at 11%.

  • Update: A seventh poll was now released, this one from Suffolk in the field Friday-Sunday. McCain is ahead 30% to 27% with Giuliani at 14% and Huckabee at 11%. The press release emphasizes the potential importance of Saturday's night endorsement, does that mean that their numbers show gains on Sunday for McCain?
Of all the GOP primaries, Florida's is the first one which has no favorite going in. And that will give that much of a bigger boost to the victor. If the race was indeed tied going into this week-end, it is indeed probable that McCain is now coming out with a small edge, however, and the Politico's Jonathan Martin thinks that Crist's support pretty much sealed the deal for the Arizona Senator. And it's hard not to notice that it is McCain who edges out Romney by 1% in most polls, though that is way within the margin of error.

On the Democratic side, it is worth watching the margin between Clinton and Obama. The stakes are much lower, but Clinton could get some revenge from Saturday's humiliation. And depending on how many voters do turn out (all indications are that Democratic turn out will be strong) Clinton could get some positive buzz out of a large victory.

We also got an interesting poll of the Colorado caucuses this morning, taken by Mason-Dixon. Colorado is a February 5th state, so we will hear a lot about it in the coming week:

  • On the Republican side, Mitt Romney has a wide lead over John McCain, 43% to 24%, with Huckabee at 17%, Ron Paul at 5% and Giuliani at 4%.
  • Among Democrats, Barack Obama edges out Hillary Clinton 34% to 32% with Edwards running strong at 17%.
Colorado is one of the state Obama has put the most effort in, and his organization there is strong. Given that the contest is a caucus, organization is especially important and could help Obama build on those 2%. His campaign wants to win the states on the interior to be able to make the argument that Hillary Clinton is strong only on the coasts (which is why the Missouri contest is particularly important).

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