Wednesday, September 13, 2006


For those of you new to the site, I'm a junkie for straw polls. Love 'em. Especially GOP polls; call it opposition research. Conventional wisdom suggests that John McCain is the early favorite as he's got lots of cash, an strong infrastructure and his "maverick" moniker that lets him appeal to moderate voters (I'll leave it for another time to again complain about McCain's alleged moderate streak; suffice it to say, I think it's baloney). But these straw polls, conducted online every once in a while over in the right blogosphere, paint a much different picture.

First, I'll do a quick recap of how the poll is constructed. There is a list of 11 candidates and there are three choices for each candidate; first choice, acceptable and unacceptable. Voters could only vote for one "first choice" but multiple "acceptable" or "unacceptable" results. Based on the ratings that those who took the polls gave themselves, there's a fairly strong representation of the very conservative section of the GOP in the poll.
The potential candidates in the survey, listed in alphabetical order, are Allen, Brownback, Frist, Gingrich, Giuliani, Hagel, Huckabee, McCain, Pataki, Romney and Tancredo. At the time of my viewing, there had been 4945 ballots cast. Poll results can be found here.

Since last time I examined one of these straw polls was back on August 27th, some of the numbers have definitely shifted. Starting off, Giuliani is no longer tops as the "first choice" candidate as he has now swapped placed with the former second place, Newt Gingrich. August numbers had Rudy at 25% compared to 21.5% for Newt and Mitt Romney well behind with 12.9% Presumptive nominee McCain garnered on 6.2% of the "first choice" selections. Now, Gingrich is up with 24.2% of the "first choices" and Rudy follows closely with 22.7% Romney is still third, though he's moved up some percentage points and is now at 15.4%. McCain support dwindled to 4.1% of "first choice" selections.
Moving onto the "acceptable" choices, again we see a switch that Newt has moved up to first place, though it's probably more accurate to say that he's polling the same and Rudy has fallen. Newt's still at 66% (the same as the August number) but Rudy has seen his stock drop as far as being an acceptable candidate falling to 60.7% compared to 66.7% back in August. The current number is barely good enough for third place as George Felix Allen Jr. is right behind him at 60.6%. Moving up to second place is Romney, who grabs 63%. McCain finds himself in eighth place, garnering a paltry 21% acceptability number. I'm no expert, but that number sort of sucks.
And finally, in the "unacceptable" category, heading up the list is Chuck Hagel, which isn't surprising, at 69% which is a tick up from August. McCain finds himself the second most unacceptable candidate on the list (moving up two places from August) with 68.3%, which is a big six point shift from his August number of 62%. The least "unacceptable" candidate is Gingrich at 21%, a positive gain of three points from his August numbers. Giuliani drops here as well, falling to fourth from first with 26.9%. Romney comes in behind Newt with 22.7% unacceptibility rating and George Felix Allen Jr. is third with 24.1% unacceptibility.

What it all means:
I'm sort of suprised that Rudy's acceptibility numbers have dropped by almost seven points in just about three weeks, especially considering that we just finished the various 9/11 commemorations and, of course, that's where Rudy made his scratch back in '01. I do not believe that Rudy would even be included in this poll if not for the events of 9/11. All that being said, it looks like more and more conservatives are actually starting to look at Giuliani's record and have decided that he's not an acceptable candidate. I would expect his numbers to continue to fall in the coming weeks and months.
Also, as I mentioned at the beginning, the polls results (at least the straw polls I've viewed) are flying in the face of conventional wisdom as McCain is not getting the love from conservatives. Perhaps the "maverick" thing backfires with conservatives. Maybe they seem him as too moderate. Wouldn't that be ironical.
Newt Gingrich definitely benefitted from Rudy's plunge, though whether that will actually result in primary support for him remains to be seen. Mitt Romney is also someone who deserves a strong look given his numbers, though I'd be hardpressed to figure out how being a governor from a liberal New England state like Massachusetts would be helpful in getting him votes in the South.
Something else to note is that six of the candidates are from the Senate and I do not believe that that is a viable path to the White House even if your name is McCain. The last time a senator won the presidency was almost fifty years ago when Kennedy barely won in '60. So that leaves three governors (and two of them are from the Northeast, never a good sign) while two are private citizens, Newt and Rudy.
I personally think that Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee bears watching. Though his numbers are anemic (1.2% first choice, 37.6% acceptable, 38.1% unacceptable), he is a governor from a southern state (and three of the last five presidents were elected having held the same position - Carter, Clinton and Bush II) and I believe that as time rolls on and people become more familiar with him, his numbers will rise.
But that's just my take and honestly, I am no authority on how the right wing mind works, so who knows?

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