Morning polls: We're already on to the Saturday contests

The primary process never stops and -- merely 12 hours after the Michigan primary is called -- it's on to South Carolina's GOP contest and the Nevada caucuses. Two polls this morning set the stage for what to expect. The first is Zogby's new tracking poll from South Carolina. This is the first installment, done from the 13th to the 15th, which means we will know in the coming days whether Romney and McCain move at all because of Michigan's results:

  • John McCain is ahead, as in most South Carolina polls, with 29%. Huckabee follows at 23%, and everyone else is far behind. Romney gets 13%, Fred Thompson 12%, followed by Paul at 6%. And Giuliani is once again behind Paul (can he survive losing to him three times in four contests?).
  • Zogby predicts 75% of the sample will be registered Republicans, and as often McCain does better among independents. But it's important to note that he does lead among registered Republicans (29% to 24%), which he was not able to do in 2000.
South Carolina was McCain's doom in 2000, but notice that he is much stronger among registered Republicans than he was back then. Also, the fact that there is only three days of exclusive SC campaigning reduces the likelihood of a concerted attack against him. Huckabee's problem is that Thompson is holding firm and perhaps even rising in some polls, and most of those votes are coming from Huck.

Second is an American Research Group survey from Nevada:

  • Among Republicans, Mitt Romney has the lead 28% to McCain's 21%. Then comes Thompson at 13%, Giuliani at 11%, Ron Paul at 9% and Huckabee at 8%.
  • In the Democratic race, Clinton is barely ahead 35% to 32% for Obama, with Edwards close behind at 25%. In confirmation of how much things have tightened, compare these numbers to early December's when Clinton led 45% to 18%.
The Republican numbers here contradict the Research 2000 we saw the other day that had Romney fourth in a muddle for first, with McCain slightly ahead. The CW of Nevada is that Romney is the favorite, so we will see in the coming days. If he gets a win here, that would be three states in his column -- and it would allow him to get some of the momentum out of Saturday that the winner of SC was supposed to get.

The big fight of Nevada, of course is the Democratic caucus, and things have been heating up lately between Obama and Clinton and even more so between the Nevada unions that have dragged their fight to the courts (more about that soon). The Research 2000 poll had similar results, and it's striking that Edwards has a high number here -- he could surely have done some damage had he gotten the culinary workers' endorsement as he was hoping to.

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