Marist College Poll Results

On Sunday, Marist College released the results of their October 4th -9th telephone survey of 1,512 New Hampshire voters of which 661 were Democrats or Democratic leaning independents and 577 were Republicans or Republican leaning independents. Of these, about 2/3 were considered “likely” to vote in the New Hampshire primary.

Much like recent polls in Iowa, Hillary has a seemingly insurmountable lead among Democrats, with the support of 43% of the Democratic or Democratic leaning respondents to the poll, more than doubling Barack Obama’s 21% with John Edwards bringing up the rear at 12%.

These results are slightly better for Hillary than the RealClearPolitics average of the most recent polls in New Hampshire and continue Senator Clinton’s steady climb over the last six months.

Not only does Clinton receive the support of 47% of the women in the survey, but she also gets 32% of the men, 1% more than Obama and Edwards combined. I found two of the sub-group results somewhat surprising.

First, respondents who did not go to college or who earn less than $50,000 per year favored Clinton by a much greater margin than those who did go to or earn more than $50,000. Considering that Obama markets himself as the common man and that Edwards has the most explicitly redistributionist economic views, this shows that it will be exceptionally difficult for any Democrat to beat Hillary Clinton given that she’s very strong in the few areas that one might have looked for an opening to play to her left.

Second, of the Democrat likely voters who said they support Hillary Clinton, 59% of them say they strongly support her and only 14% said they might vote differently. Obama’s numbers are similar, but that’s not particularly relevant since what he has to care about is his chances of changing the minds of current Clinton supporters.

Of Edwards supporters, fully 32% said they might vote differently, thus Edwards’ position in New Hampshire is likely even much weaker than the 11% support implies. Beyond the obvious bad news there for John Edwards, this is also bad news for Barack Obama since more of those wavering Edwards voters said they support Clinton as their second choice than Obama.

Hillary got the most support in every candidate “qualities” question, including “bring about change”, “closer to you on issues”, “shares your values”, and especially on “is a strong leader”. More importantly, Hillary wins on all three self-identified top issues: The war in Iraq, health care, and the economy, with particular domination of the latter two. Again like Iowa, and reinforcing my view that Hillary can not be beaten (with the possible but not probable exception of Al Gore’s running), Hillary beats Obama and Edwards on the Iraq issue even though she has the reputation as the most hawkish of the three. And if that isn’t enough to believe her nomination is inevitable, fully 58% of Democratic likely voters responding said that Hillary Clinton has the best chance of beating the Republican nominee with Obama a distant second at 18%. Unless something truly major happens, the race for the Democratic nomination is over.

The results on the Republican side on the other hand show a real horse race underlying the headline result of Mitt Romney leading Rudy Giuliani by 27% to 21%, with John McCain not far behind at 17%. Fred Thompson and Mike Huckabee take 4th and 5th at 10% and 8%, respectively.

Despite Romney’s current lead, there are several reasons why I would not be surprised to see Giuliani win the New Hampshire primary.

First, looking at the trend between Romney and Giuliani’s poll results there, we are now seeing the first substantial tightening up of the race since Romney passed Rudy in early May (based on the averages.) Romney appears to have peaked a month ago.

Second, although John McCain is not leading in New Hampshire he is well-respected there. On Saturday, McCain launched a blistering attack against Romney, “skewering him as a political chameleon” according to the New Hampshire Union Leader.

Third, some of the same internals of the Marist poll that make Hillary look so hard to beat make Mitt look vulnerable:

• Romney’s “strongly support” category is at 37%, far lower than Giuliani at 48% or John McCain at 56%.
• While Romney leads both Giuliani and McCain in the “strong leader” question, all three are within 6% of each other.
• And in the “candidate quality” questions of “shares your values” and “closer to you on the issues”, while Romney leads both Giuliani and McCain, he does not lead the aggregate of the other candidates. For purposes of comparison, both Hillary and Obama beat “Other” in all 4 Democrat “quality” questions.
• Romney actually polls higher than Rudy in “security against terrorism”, but I must say I simply don’t believe that result. Furthermore, Romney gets 29% on that question versus 21% each for Giuliani, McCain, and Other. My guess is that if McCain were out or there were fewer other candidates, Rudy would pick up most of that support on the issue.
• While Romney beats the other candidates by a fairly wide margin among Republican voters, he loses to both Giuliani and McCain among Independents, leading directly to the final and critical point…
• 40% of likely Republican or Republican leaning voters believe that Rudy has the best chance of beating the Democratic nominee with only 29% believing Romney has the best chance.

Because Rudy did not put a lot of early effort into New Hampshire while Romney did, and with Rudy campaigning more actively now, Romney’s position reminds me of a football team leading in a game but missing opportunities and just not able to put the other team away. I can’t help but have a hunch that the other team, Rudy Giuliani in this case, will make a comeback before the game is over.