Friday, February 17, 2006

Early Thinking About 2008

It is too early to predict the outcome of the 2008 race for president, but the exercise is still interesting. American Research Group (hat tip to Polipundit) conducted an early poll of voter preferences for president and found some interesting but not too surprising results. The poll covered 7 states, South Carolina and the 6 New England states.

On the Democrat side, Hillary Clinton was the clear favorite. In her worst state, South Carolina, she received 30%, and her closest contender, John Edwards, received 15%. Edwards did well in South Carolina in part because he is from neighboring North Carolina. Kerry received 10% in his home state of Massachusetts, a disappointment for a man who was the 2004 nominee of the party. In no other state did anyone other than Clinton receive at least 10%. Clinton's preference exceeded the combined preference for all the other contenders except in 2 states, South Carolina (30% to 34%) and New Hampshire (32% to 37%). Note that those are the 2 most conservative states of the 7.

On the Republican side, John McCain was the clear favorite. McCain received at least 39% in each state. McCain's preference exceeded the combined preference for all other contenders in all 7 states.

In a face-off between McCain and Clinton, McCain prevailed in 6 of the 7 states, although 2 of McCain's states, Maine and Rhode Island, were within the margin of error. Clinton won only in Connecticut, which is next door to Clinton's state of New York.

These poll results are interesting, but it is premature to take them too seriously. They do indicate that each party has a strong frontrunner. Other candidates will be running uphill to catch them. However, early frontrunners do sometimes falter in the heat of a campaign.

The results also indicate that Clinton will have difficulty holding onto states that voted for Kerry in 2004. Keep in mind that the surveyed states include only one that voted for Bush in 2004 (South Carolina) and one other that was reasonably close (New Hampshire). McCain has a clear lead in 3 states that Kerry won, Massachusetts (48% to 39%), New Hampshire (52% to 32%), and Vermont (47% to 38%). Massachusetts and Vermont are essential states for any Democrat in a presidential election. If Clinton can not improve her image between now and 2008, she will probably lose, and perhaps lose big.

I caution you again that we have far to go until 2008. The political climate will change. Rest assured that McCain's generally favorable media coverage will disappear if he wins the Republican nomination.

One final observation: Conservatives do not generally like McCain now because of his strong support for campaign finance reform and his opposition to the Bush administration on several issues. However, his independence will be an asset if he can win the 2008 Republican nomination. Conservatives will serve themselves and their cause well if they consider the electoral merits of McCain, who is a conservative overall with an ACU rating over 80%.

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