1.14.2008

Morning polls: GOP muddle in Michigan and Florida, but South Carolina is less tight for both parties

We're one day away from the Michigan primary that could either save Romney's candidacy or go a long way towards clinching the nomination for John McCain. And after a wave of reliable polls showing Romney up big this week-end (Mason-Dixon had him up 8, the Free Press has him up 5), Zogby now gives a slim lead to McCain:

  • McCain gets 27%, with Romney at 24%. Huckabee is far behind at 15%, followed by Ron Paul at 8%, Giuliani at 6% and Fred Thompson at 5%.
  • Now here is the key to this election: Romney beats McCain handily among registered Republicans, 30% to 20%. but Republicans only make up 51% of the sample.
  • Because there is no competitive Democratic primary, a full 22% of the sample are registered Democrats, and they are going for McCain 35-17. Similarly, the 27% of independents are going for McCain 33-18.
Just as in the Iowa caucuses for Democrats, the key to the Michigan primary will be the proportion of non-Republicans who vote tomorrow. And there is no way to know how much better the numbers could have looked for Romney if most of the Democratic candidates had not withdrawn their names from the ballot.

The next step for Republicans -- though it is a bit more distant for Democrats -- is South Carolina, where we also got a new poll from Public Policy Polling:

  • Among Democrats, Obama has opened up a big lead -- confirming what we have seen in other polls lately. He leads 44% to 31% with Edwards at 16%. And forget the black vote, Hillary does not even get a majority of the female vote anymore, as she trails 42% to 37%.
  • Among Republicans, McCain confirms that he is a few inches ahead of the field with 28% followed by Huckabee at 21%, Romney at 17% and Thompson at 14%.
One quick note for each race: Clinton appears to be losing South Carolina and the controversy over the racial overtones of her comments is getting a lot of press time there; this just underscores the importance of Nevada for her and, perhaps, of Florida (see below). As for Republicans, Romney is strong enough that he could have a good showing (strong second at least) if he wins Michigan; but if he loses tomorrow, it looks like SC will be the first state in which Romney will not play for the win.

Finally, we got two polls from Florida -- and John McCain is ahead in both, albeit well within the margin of error:

  • A Quinnipiac poll has McCain at 22%, followed by Rudy at 20% and Romney and Huckabee at 19%. That's an 8% drop for Giuliani since the last Quinnipiac survey and a 9% rise for McCain.
  • Rasmussen, meanwhile, has an even tighter-race, with McCain at 19%, Romney and Giuliani at 18%, Huckabee at 17% and Fred Thompson at 11%.

  • Among Democrats, Quinnipiac shows Hillary way ahead 52% to 31%.
The GOP race will shift a lot still depending on the results in Michigan and South Carolina (and Nevada?), though it is remarkable that McCain has already taken the lead here -- he will have to be considered the favorite if he pulls off Michigan and/or South Carolina.

The Democratic race is the big question mark. Remember that the candidates have pledged to not campaign there because of the early-states fury, but Obama and Edwards have not taken their name out of the ballot. Thus, there will be no delegates at stake, no campaigning but there will be actual results the same night as the GOP primary. Given Clinton's big lead right now, it seems that she has to be considered the favorite especially if her rivals cannot go and contest her dominance -- and she could very well save face a few days prior to February 5th by at least getting the appearance of a win.

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