GOP update: McCain leads in SC and in MI, as Romney's support is the big question mark

First up, Michigan, where Strategic Vision shows a very good picture for the new GOP front-runner:

  • John McCain leads with 29%, in front of Mitt Romney at 20% and Huckabee at 18%. Giuliani holds his own at 13% with Thompson and Paul far behind at 5%.
The survey was taken from January 4th to 6th, so it does not include any further New Hampshire bounce McCain could have gotten after that. Michigan is the new battleground in the GOP race, of course, and McCain and Romney are organizing there. Huckabee is spending more time in South Carolina, which should give hope to Romney that he won't drop to third-place again -- is Romney ever going to get any credit for his consistent showings?

The sign of how strong McCain is right now is South Carolina, in which he has surged ahead to lead in two polls:

  • In the Rasmussen survey, John McCain is ahead 27% to 24%, with Mitt Romney at 16% and Fred Thompson at 12%. Giuliani is at 6% and Ron Paul at 5%. This is a post-New Hampshire poll, and it shows some major change from last Sunday where Huckabee was up 28% to 21%.
  • Fox News also has a poll out tonight: McCain leads with 25%, followed by Huckabee at 18% and Romney at 17%. Thompson is only at 9%, with Paul and Giuliani at 5%.
I believe this is the first time since McCain's spring/summer collapse that he has led in the state that was his undoing in 2000, and a McCain victory on the 19th could make him as unstoppable as he could be. Huckabee has to stop McCain's momentum in South Carolina and he will spend much of the next 10 days campaigning there. And he has obviously been very strong in recent polls, so let's wait a few days to see what happens once McCain's post-victory bounce erodes (remember what happened to the Obama NH bounce...).

Meanwhile, the Huckabee pile-on is starting in South Carolina. Victim's Voice, an independent 527 voice is now trying to run an ad (watch it here) blasting Huckabee for liberating convicted rapist Wayne DuMond. The mother of one of DuMond's victims says in the ad, "If not for Mike Huckabee, my daughter would be alive today." The group does not have enough money to run the ad broadly but they are certainly hoping for some publicity, and this is the kind of negative attack that South Carolina is famous for.

The big question in this state is what happens to Romney's support. Mitt has stopped running ads in the state and Jonathan Martin is now reporting that Romney might entirely drop out of the state unless he posts a significant victory first in Michigan. And where are Romney's South Carolina voters likely to migrate? Could Thompson pick up some support there? Those could be key questions in the fight for South Carolina.

The Romney campaign apparently has some hope for Nevada since they are the only campaign who has spent time and resoures in that state and with everyone else being occupied in South Carolina, Romney could perhaps finally pull a victory (beyond Wyoming).

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