GOP Field Wide Open?

[ Posted Thursday, September 29th, 2011 – 16:34 UTC ]

The Republican presidential field continues to defy the expectations and easy story lines from the political media and the rest of the inside-the-Beltway crowd. Just last week, this was supposed to now be "a two-man race," but in a week's time the story has shifted to almost utter chaos. A new Fox News poll out shows that the easy read of the electorate the media was pushing last week is now completely wrong.

Now, I understand that a single poll is not conclusive. In fact, I rarely comment on single polls for exactly this reason -- you can wind up making sweeping conclusions based on one poll that was statistically off in some way. It's a lot better to watch multiple polls over time to spot trends.

But, hey, it's Thursday, so I couldn't resist. I hope my readers will excuse this lapse.

The Fox News poll has the candidates in the following order, with their percent:

Mitt Romney (23)
Rick Perry (19)
Herman Cain (17)
Newt Gingrich (11)
Ron Paul (6)
Jon Huntsman (4)
Michele Bachmann (3)
Rick Santorum (3)

This is rather stunning, for a number of reasons (which is why I couldn't resist writing about it today).

Mitt Romney's fortunes are on the rise, as he comes out on top for the first time since Perry jumped in the race. However, 23 percent isn't all that great a number -- Romney's been up to the mid-thirties at times. It is an improvement though (he was down to the high teens not so long ago), and the Mitt camp has to be happy with placing first, one assumes.

Rick Perry is the real loser in this poll, even though he came in second -- because he's been used to coming in first for a while now. Also bad news for Perry: he's dropped below 20 percent for the first time since jumping in the race as well. The trajectory on Perry's support is headed downwards, in a noticeable way. But don't forget Perry's got a lot of money behind him -- Perry plans to go the distance. He could recover from his largely self-inflicted wounds in the coming weeks.

Herman Cain is the biggest winner in this poll, with the highest poll number he's so far gotten in any poll (he hit 17 percent once before, months back, but few other polls put him even in double-digits at the time). I guess winning that straw poll in Florida was more impressive than it seemed at the time -- to the Republican primary voters, at least. Most of the media had already written Cain's chances off, but here he is only two points behind Perry.

Newt Gingrich makes a strong stand in this poll as well. His numbers have been creeping back upwards for the past few weeks, but 11 percent is the highest number he's seen in quite a while. He just tossed out a rehash of his Contract With America gimmick, in hopes of getting some media attention, so we'll see whether Newt can build on his slow rise or not.

Ron Paul has actually fallen back, by about half, from a few other recent polls. Either the electorate is getting tired of Paul, or this particular poll is an aberration and his support is a few points stronger than it looks. Either way, though, Paul shows no signs of breaking 15 percent voter support any time soon, leaving him in a familiar marginal position.

Michele Bachmann's support has completely collapsed, if this poll can be believed. She had moved into second or third place for a while there, but is now back with Santorum and Huntsman, well under five percent. This is a big drop, since she was regularly polling between 10 and 20 percent just a few weeks ago. Perhaps her story about HPV vaccine causing "retardation" hurt her more than she thought it would. Other recent polls show Bachmann at five percent or below, but this is the first time she's been down to three percent since June.

There's not much to say about Santorum. Huntsman charted the highest number he has in a while, assuring him of continued participation in the debates, but not much else.

As I said, this is just one poll. It may be wildly off, or it may be accurate. So take any conclusions drawn with the proverbial pinch of salt. And please keep in mind that it is still early to be drawing any kind of conclusions at all, no matter what the polls say. No Republican candidate, for instance, has broken 40 percent in any poll yet. But even had they done so, drawing conclusions is still a fool's game at this point. Four years ago (for instance), Hillary Clinton was solidly over 40 percent, and Barack Obama was in the low 20s, in the Democratic race. Rudy Giuliani led the pack on the Republican side.

But if this poll of the Republican electorate does prove to be accurate (if its results show up in other recent polls, in other words), then one simple conclusion can be drawn: the Republican nomination could be a lot more wide open than the pundits have been saying. At the very least, we may currently be in a "three-man race" (or even more, should other Republicans give in to the urge to jump into the contest).

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


5 Comments on “GOP Field Wide Open?”

  1. [1] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    Whether or not this poll proves to be accurate, it does make perfect sense to me as far as their chances of being elected are concerned.

    I mean, that is probably the order I would have used, too.

  2. [2] 
    Michale wrote:

    The more I read about Herman Cain, the more I like him...

    What a match-up that would be, eh??

    Obama vs Cain

    It sure would blunt the hysterical RACIST accusations coming from the Left, Janine Gorafalo notwithstanding...

    What's not to like about Cain???


  3. [3] 
    Michale wrote:

    Now, I understand that a single poll is not conclusive. In fact, I rarely comment on single polls for exactly this reason -- you can wind up making sweeping conclusions based on one poll that was statistically off in some way. It's a lot better to watch multiple polls over time to spot trends.

    Speaking of one poll wonders..

    Harris Poll: Paul beats Obama 51-49

    You know things are bad for Obama if Ron Paul is beating him!!

    Who would have thunked it??


  4. [4] 
    Michale wrote:

    "Boom.. Boom.. Boom...
    Another one bites the dust...
    And another gone and another gone...
    Another bites the dust...
    Hay! Gonna get you too!!
    Another bites the dust!!


    Al Qaeda's Anwar al-Awlaki killed in Yemen

    Say what you want about Obama, but he is sure racking up the kills!!

    Credit where credit is due, to be sure....

    Apologies for being off topic...


  5. [5] 
    DerFarm wrote:

    Herman Cain. For 6 months he never got above 10% and now he's the second coming. Rick Perry is no longer the annointed. Mitt Romney can't break the 1/3rd level. Ron Paul is ... Ron Paul. The rest of the field is wallowing in dirt. I'm beginning to think that the R respondents are being chosen in a non-normal manner.

    This seasons polls have not shown anything but a blenders effect on candidates. There is no continuity in these pollse at all.

    If this were a dishwasher soap contest, I'd suspect that the numbers were being seriously screwed with. It is, however, NOT a dishwasher soap contest. Occam's razor suggests that reason these numbers are flying around is that the respondents don't really LIKE ANYONE.

    TP types can't stand Romney/Huntsman and the mainline types are afraid that the R can't win without the acquiesence of the TP (at the very least).

    Mainline types really can't stand the TP darlings because they know damn well that the TP can't be controlled in any really meaningful sense(see 2010 senate elections), to say noting of the assumption that statewide TP candidates usually don't get elected outside really red places.

    'Tis a puzzelment.

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