Identifying and analyzing emerging trends in campaigns and elections.

Is the GOP Presidential Primary Boiling Down to a Two-Way Race?

In Presidential campaign on November 8, 2011 at 12:15 pm

We’re now approaching a critical juncture in the GOP presidential contest. With the first delegate selection voting event (the Iowa Caucuses on January 3rd) now less than two months away, a pair of national polls suggest that the campaign may be evolving into a two-person race. According to the ABC News/Washington Post survey (Oct. 31-Nov. 3; a ridiculously small sample of 438 Republican “leaners”) and Rasmussen Reports (Nov. 2; 1,000 likely Republican primary voters), the results are virtually the same. The small sample for the ABC News poll raises questions about its reliability as does their lack of definition for the term “leaners,” but the results are close to the more solid RR poll conducted during the same time period.

The ABC poll shows former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and retired business executive Herman Cain in a virtual tie (24-23 percent in favor of Mr. Romney), while Rasmussen shows the latter up 26-23 percent. All other candidates are in the mid-teens at best.

The prevailing early campaign wisdom was for one more conservative candidate to isolate Romney in a one-on-one race and define him (Mr. Romney) as the moderate. Such a strategy would likely be successful before a highly conservative Republican primary electorate. If Mr. Cain is that other person, however, does his budding personal scandal change the picture? Since these polls were taken before most of the Cain controversy became public, will future results be affected based upon this new knowledge? The polling over the next 10 days should answer that question and possibly define the race. Could a Cain collapse allow Texas Gov. Rick Perry to re-emerge? Perhaps former House Speaker Newt Gingrich? Stay tuned.

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