Monday, March 05, 2007

Romney on Top in CPAC straw poll

The results of the CPAC straw poll, the most telling barometer of the opinions of Republican opinion makers from all 50 states ahead of the Iowa straw poll, are in. In a poll of 1,709 CPAC attendees the results for 2008 GOP Presidential Nominee are:

Romney 21%
Giuliani 17%
Brownback 15%
Gingrich 14%
McCain 12%

This was almost exactly as I predicted and it's clear that McCain paid a heavy price for not showing up to the conference and then "dissing" (in the words of the Wash. Times) the attendees of the conference. Last year, George Allen ranked first, followed by McCain, and then Giuliani. The methadology of the poll also breaks down favorability of the candidates issue-by-issue, with Romney followed by Giuliani leading the way on the issue of reducing the size and scope of the Federal government. On safety and Security, Giuliani leads, followed by Romney. The only aberration was on the issue of traditional values, where Brownback led with 29% followed by Romney with 22%. When first choices for President and VP are combined, Giuliani is the leader, followed by Romney. The CPAC attendees have historically chosen the winner of the their party's nomination, as in 2000 when Bush led Bauer and Elizabeth Dole when first choices of president and VP slots of CPAC attendees were combined.

Interestingly enough, 33% blamed '06 losses on either Bush's job performance or Congressional Republicans' performance, followed by 30% who blamed the war in Iraq. Even more telling was the ideology of attendees when asked to explain their positions. 50% chose limited goverment and individual freedom, with only 30% choosing traditional values (protecting marriage and the unborn) and 18% saying national security regardless of the costs and government expansion. I think conservatives are finding their moorings and looking to re-establish themselves. Many of these who did not rank traditional values first are socially conservative and strong on national security, but they believed that straying from their values of limited government and individual freedom, which were the enduring bonds that held together the coalition on the right for many years, led to the losses of '08. This may explain why Giuliani and Romney polled much better than Brownback, Tancredo, and Huckabee, for this precept is something that unites all divisions of the party, and I think the party activists are serious about winning the presidency, which is why traditional values and "big-government" security are now lower priorities than before.

Yet, the overall vote shows that many Republican activists are still uncertain, and the vote compilation shows a fractured and evenly-divided support among the candidates--no one candidate has a super majority. But if Giuliani can perform this well and come in second among a group that skews very far right and is composed of many more conservatives than moderates, this must be a welcome sign for the Giuliani camp, as well as the Romney camp to a lesser degree.

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