Bush blogger Patricki Ruffini has conducted one of the first polls on the 2008 presidential race. Wanting to measure the appeal of Rudy Giuliani in the GOP blogosphere, he pitted the former NYC mayor against Virginia Senator George Allen, Arizona Senator John McCain, and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist.
Much to my surprise, Giuliani beat all comers handily. Allen faired best, garnering 32.2 percent of the vote against Giuliani in a head-to-head matchup, as opposed to 23.9 percent for Frist and 25.7 percent for McCain in their matchups. Luckily, Ruffini breaks the numbers down even more, showing that most of Giuliani’s edge came from voters who followed one link from the almighty Instapundit. Filtering out those voters leaves Allen with a slight edge over Giuliani, and Giuliani trouncing both Frist and McCain.
I think Ruffini is right that, for the moment anyway, Allen represents the standard “generic conservative” in this race due to the fact that so far he has kept a relatively low profile. McCain is a well-known commodity and has earned (undeservedly in my opinion) a good deal of scorn in conservative circles. Frist is the Senate Majority Leader and has gradually been raising his profile in recent months (such as in the recent “Justice Sunday” nonsense), with mixed results. One thing the Ruffini results do demonstrate is a surprising depth of support for Giuliani. He is not a candidate with mile-wide-and-inch-deep support just because he has a famous name. Call him the anti-Colin Powell.
What I think the Ruffini results demonstrate is that there is a real underlying divide in the GOP on who should succeed Bush. While the party is united behind the president in the war on terrorism, it is less united on social issues, with some really fearing the power of social (mostly Christian) conservatives. A good number of GOP voters want another “Bush” in the White House—a war fighter and a social conservative—and would naturally flock to a standard conservative like Allen. The war hawkish but socially moderate have but one real standard-bearer in Giuliani.
I can see Giuliani winning the GOP nomination in 2008. If the conservative wing of the party is divided between 4–5 generic conservatives (a likely scenario), Giuliani should have enough ground in the middle and left of the party to win some early primaries and get the Big Momentum. He really has no major competition for the moderate and liberal sections of the party. Christie Whitman’s name is mud to most mainstream GOPers, and nobody else has a high enough profile. Giuliani’s hawkishness on the war on terror should be enough to blunt criticism of his moderate stances on social issues, even in the South (never underestimate the power of a tough guy).
Should Allen run, I’d be inclined to support my senator at the outset, but I’d have no problem supporting America’s Mayor in 2008 should he get the nomination.
UPDATE: From Ruffini’s comments, here’s a blogger who sees the 2008 GOP primary as a re-do of 1988. Giuliani as Bush Sr? George Allen as Jack Kemp? You be the judge.