Rudy skeptics may be dismissive of the new Washington Post/ABC News poll that shows Rudy up over McCain 44-21, arguing that a lot can change in the next 11 months. I wouldn’t dispute that. However, I thought it would be interesting to compare these numbers to polls at this time in the 2000 election. I visited Polling Report, and found the following poll from February 1999:
Republican Leadership Council Poll conducted by Greg Strimple & Associates (R). February 1-4, 1999. N=408 likely Republican voters nationwide.
“If the Republican primary election for president were held today and the candidates were [see below], for whom would you vote?”
George W. Bush 40
Elizabeth Dole 27
Dan Quayle 9
Steve Forbes 6
John McCain 3
Gary Bauer 2
Lamar Alexander 1
Clearly, a lot did change. Dole never ran, and McCain shot up in the polls like a rocket. But it is worth noting that at the time this poll was taken, Bush was considered a shoe-in to win the nomination, and he ultimately triumphed. Yet Giuliani’s lead in current polls is much larger than Bush’s was 8 years ago, and a lot of political commentators still say that he can’t win the nomination.
UPDATE: Sean Higgins in comments:
Actually Dole did run in 2000. She came in third in Iowa, then dropped out when it was apparent she wasn’t going anywhere.
Hunter raises a good question when he asks how Romney's political resume compares with others. In my view, his resume is pretty thin. Dave Holman notes Romney's "successful campaign in a tough state for a Republican," but as liberal as Massachusetts is, until this past election, it had a tradition of electing moderate Republican governors. In fact, every governor of Massachusetts had been Republican since Michael Dukakis left office in January 1991. With Democrat Deval Patrick now in charge and the legislature even more Democratic than it had been, you can even make a case that not only was Romney not a positive force for the Republican Party in Massachusetts, but he was actually pretty bad–the state party is now at its weakest in 16 years. (Granted, Romney defenders could point to national trends that were beyond his control.) Furthermore, the Romney who successfully won election there in 2002 was the pro-choice, pro-gay rights, pro-gun control, Romney–not the "evolved" conservative Romney we know today. Also, his major successes as governor were turning a deficit into a surplus (good) and creating universal healthcare (very, very, bad). But beyond that, people touting Romney's candidacy have tended to focus on his vetoes of Democratic legislation rather than things he actually accomplished. For someone running for president in a time of war as the executive who gets things done, his actual political achievements are few and far between.
A new Washington Post-ABC News poll is even worse for Romney: 26 percent favorable to 34 percent unfavorable, which is absolutely remarkable given his lack of name recognition. He’s also the only one of the big six candidates in both parties to have a net negative rating. Giuliani has the highest rating: 64 favorable to 28 unfavorable. So in other words, more people have an unfavorable view of Romney than Rudy–even though 40 percent of people don’t know enough about Romney to have an opinion, while only 8 percent have no opinion on Rudy. Meanwhile, as far as horse race numbers, Rudy has opened up a 44-21 lead over McCain. Romney is at just 4 percent–that’s a drop from 9 percent in the same poll in January. At least according to this poll, Romney isn’t making a good first impression.
Regarding the leaked Romney campaign plan James mentioned below, I found this part interesting:
The plan concedes that, with McCain and Giuliani in the race, Romney is unlikely to be the top pick for those voters looking for a “war/strong leader.” His goal appears to be establishing himself as a credible second choice for those voters, but the first pick for voters looking for an energetic, optimistic, and innovative chief executive. (A page titled “Own the future” dubs McCain the past, Giuliani the present, and Romney the future. )
In other words, Giuliani is the post-9/11 candidate, but Romney wants to be the post-post-9/11 candidate. He wants to lead us beyond to the period of time during which the focal point of political life is our reaction to 9/11. Interesting, but I don’t think Republicans are quite ready to go there yet. Also, given that he wants to run as the “energetic, optimistic, and innovative chief executive,” I wonder if he miscalculated by going too far to position himself as a social conservative. His positions on social issues could have still evolved, but in a more subtle way, and he didn’t have to lead with them or draw so much attention to his new found beliefs. Instead, he may have been better off pitching himself first as a charismatic, problem-solving CEO type, and then only secondarly as a newly-minted social conservative.
Richard Viguerie has conducted another one of his unscientific but interesting online polls. This one asked conservatives, “Who was responsible for the Republicans’ disastrous defeats, including loss of control of the House and Senate, in the 2006 elections?”
The top answers, in order, were:
— Conservative leaders who kept silent when the GOP became the party of Big Government — Illegal corruption, such as Mark Foley, Robert Ney, and Jack Abramoff — Legal corruption, such as spending on special interest groups to “buy” their votes, including earmarks — Mainstream media that may have influenced the voters to throw out the Republicans — President George W. Bush — Conservative media that kept silent while the GOP became the party of Big Government — Senator Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), former President Pro Tempore of the Senate and promoter of the $223 million Bridge to Nowhere — Blunders and misstatements by Republican candidates — Former Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) — Congressman Dennis Hastert (R-IL), former Speaker of the House
Those who think that Rudy Giuliani is being treated with kid gloves by the media need to take a look at this cover story from New York magazine, which puts a negative spin on every development in the nascent Giuliani candidacy:
An ongoing theme of the article is that "Except for those who have a personal connection to the (9/11) tragedy, people have generally moved on."
I have always argued that one of the biggest dangers we face is that as the years go by without a terrorist attack on American soil, and as the costs of fighting terrorism mount, people will want to return to the days when we treated terrorism as a "managable" threat. Of course, it would be a huge mistake to point to the absence of attacks that have been the result of increased vigilance against terrorism as an excuse to return to the lax attitude that brought us 9/11 in the first place.
The 2008 election, I believe, will hinge on this very issue. Do we want to return to the days when terrorism was a part of political life, but not the central part, or do we want to remain committed to aggressively battling jihadists? That's why I think the election will come down to Obama vs. Giuliani–both of them are the purest representatives of each point of view. Liberals will argue that they're every bit as committed to defeating terrorism as conservatives, only smarter about it. But underlying all of their arguments is a mocking attitude toward those of us who believe that the war on terrorism is worth fighting–they believe that conservatives are wildly exaggerating the threat of terrorism and Islamism and that we are overly obsessed with 9/11.
One of the reasons I have been such a staunch proponent of Giuliani's candidacy is that it's obvious that 9/11 is so personal for him and thus I'm fully confident that he'll always remain vigilant against terrorism, even if the public mood begins to shift toward complacency.
Earlier this month, I criticized Giuliani for skipping out on conservative events. The Politico is now reporting that Rudy will attend CPAC on Friday. This should be an early test of how he does in front of a very committed, very conservative crowd. And with Romney also there, that leaves McCain, at the moment, as the odd one out among the big three.
Let me join the chorus in condemning this disgraceful AP hit piece against Romney:
SALT LAKE CITY – Though Mitt Romney condemns polygamy and its prior practice by his Mormon church, the Republican presidential candidate’s great-grandfather had five wives and at least one of his great-great grandfathers had 12.
When I saw this outrageous story, my first thought was that it read like an Onion parody of how absurdly overboard the media goes in digging up dirt on presidential candidates. It’s hard to know whether to chalk this up to liberal bias or religious bigotry that for some reason is tolerated when Mormons are involved.
Personally, I don’t think that Romney’s Mormonism should be an issue in this campaign, at all. I’m somewhat tolerant of the viewpoint that because faith is important in his life, the public should know how it affects how he would lead. But to cite a sermon given by his great-great-grandfather almost a century before he was born in a desperate effort to associate him with the stereotypes people have of his religion, is really a new low for the media.
My only hope is that the AP has gone so far overboard with this one, and utterly embarrassed itself to such a degree, that it will force the media to create some boundries as far as how they cover Romney’s religous background.