Sunday, December 16, 2007

Republican Presidential candidates as of mid October

Republican Politics, American Style
Published on October 18th 2007 in Metro Eireann By Charles Laffiteau

Having been back in the states for 6 weeks now, I think it’s time for me to give an assessment of how the 2008 US Presidential contest is shaping up beginning with my own Republican Party.
At the national level Rudy Giuliani is still the leader of the pack by double digit percentages in terms of support among likely Republican primary voters as well as in the area of raising money to finance his campaign. Rudy raised $11 million in campaign donations for the third quarter and has $16 million on hand just 3 months before the first Presidential primary votes are cast. After Rudy though the picture becomes much more muddled.
Mitt Romney comes in second in terms of overall fund raising (thanks in part to $17.5 million in loans of his own money) and has $9 million left to use for the January primary contests but is still a distant fourth in the national voter polls. It is worth noting that despite a huge campaign money and TV advertising spending advantage, Romney is only slightly ahead in the national polls of Hope Arkansas’ second US Presidential candidate in the last 20 years (the other one was named Clinton,) former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee. In the last quarter Romney raised $10 million, but $8.5 million of that was his own money which means he actually only took in $1.5 million from other donors to Huckabee’s $1million. This is not a good sign for Romney’s national Presidential campaign.
Huckabee, on the other hand, has fared well in the Republican Presidential debates and his stock has been rising in both the national polls as well as the Iowa state polls (where the first primary contest will be decided in January) despite his significant weakness in terms of raising money to finance his Presidential bid. Romney has been pouring money into his Iowa caucuses’ and New Hampshire state primary campaigns in the hopes that wins there will propel him into the national spotlight, just weeks ahead of over a dozen other major state primaries on Super Tuesday, with the image of being a winner.
Romney still has a double digit lead over his other Republican rivals in the Iowa state voter polls but the positions behind him have changed significantly since the spring. Back in May Rudy Giuliani and John McCain were in a virtual tie for second place in Iowa, with McCain at 18 percent and Giuliani at 17 percent. But today the newest Republican candidate, Fred Thompson, stands in second at 18 percent and Mike Huckabee is up to third at 12 percent. Huckabee is essentially in a tie with Giuliani who has dropped to 11 percent while John McCain, who is short on campaign cash, has dropped even further in the Iowa polls to only 7 percent, just ahead of GOP anti-war maverick Ron Paul.
In New Hampshire the news is not as good for Romney as his double digit lead over his main Republican rivals has all but evaporated despite his spending millions on TV ads and state campaign staff. Giuliani has now forged a tie in the latest polls while John McCain has seemed to revive his Presidential candidacy there by placing a close third in the most recent surveys. Once again Mike Huckabee is proving to be a viable alternative by coming in a surprising fourth, tied with Ron Paul and ahead of Fred Thompson. This is hardly a good sign for Thompson’s campaign.
On the fundraising front TV actor Fred Thompson raised $9.3 million in the third quarter placing him third among Republicans. He still has $7 million left to use in advance of the January primaries but his fundraising has gotten off to a rather slow start because of his late entry into the Republican presidential campaign. Ole Fred stretched the interpretation of what an “exploratory” campaign committee’s limits are by waiting until September to “officially” announce his candidacy while raising about $3.5 million in advance of his “official” Presidential campaign bid. John McCain, the early Republican front-runner who is running short on cash, reported raising $6 million in the last quarter which is only slightly ahead of the equally surprising $5 million raised by Ron Paul, the anti-war Texas libertarian
Republicans still lag far behind their Democratic counterparts in raising money, a worrisome trend which shows no signs of abating. Hillary Clinton raised $27 million in the last quarter and Barack Obama raised $20 million while John Edwards and Bill Richardson were raising $7 million and $5 million respectively. All together the Democratic Presidential candidates continue to raise campaign funds at a pace that is roughly double that of their Republican counter-parts. Republican fund-raising has slipped for a variety of reasons including a lack of enthusiasm for the field of Republican candidates, and dissatisfaction with President George W. Bush, the Iraq war and the numerous scandals involving prominent Republican legislators.
So how do I size up the rather muddled republican field of presidential candidates 3 months before the first caucuses and primaries? Well, despite his surprisingly strong showing in the Iowa and New Hampshire state polls, I still don’t see Mike Huckabee winning the Republican nomination, but he has definitely positioned himself as a strong possible Vice Presidential running mate for whoever captures the GOP nomination. Giuliani remains the strongest candidate both in terms of voter recognition and fund raising ability but his support is soft in some of the early primary states like Iowa, where a poor showing on Election Day could tarnish his current front-runner status and image as someone who can beat his Democratic rival.
Fred Thompson has been a bit of a disappointment as he has failed thus far to ignite much enthusiasm among Republican voters. Sure he is running second in the national polls but that has more to do with his voter recognition as a TV actor and a lack of enthusiasm for the other Republican candidates than it does with his political positions or debating prowess. Romney has tried to solidify his support among social conservatives, but this bloc of voters still appears to be hopelessly divided between Huckabee, Thompson and Romney and to a lesser extent Giuliani and McCain. As I see it, this contest is still a toss-up barring some unexpected gaffes on the part of one or more of the aforementioned candidates.
Next week I will assess the Democratic field which according to some appears to be much less muddled than my own party’s contest. I’m not so sure I agree with that assessment however.

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