Giuliani the Next McCain?

Charles Franklin looks at the polling trends and concludes that Rudy Giuliani’s “trend in support eerily similar to McCain’s downward trajectory.”

While he has consistently remained ahead in polls of Republican voters, and his campaign is in infinitely better financial shape than McCain’s, Giuliani’s trend in support is eerily similar to McCain’s downward trajectory.

Giuliani-McCain Trends Pollster.comSince early March, Giuliani’s support has fallen by an estimated 8 percentage points. McCain’s fell by 10 points since January. And the rate of decline has been a bit steeper for Giuliani than for McCain. The saving grace for Giuliani has been that he started his decline from a higher point, around 33%, while McCain’s slump started down from 25%.

Giuliani’s national slide is also mirrored in the early primary states, as is the case with McCain.

[See original post for state-by-state charts]

If Giuliani’s decline is a little less dramatic in the states than has been McCain’s, his situation is still grave in comparison to the rising candidacies of Romney (in IA and NH) and Fred Thompson (nationally and in FL and SC).

Now, Giuliani is still the clear frontrunner and he is not experiencing the fundraising or staffing problems that McCain is. Still, while Giuliani’s decline has been much less precipitous, it’s certainly there.

The obvious rejoinder is that the emergence of a new major candidate, Fred Thompson, naturally siphons off support from the others. Here are the Republican trends, compiled by RealClearPolitics by averaging the results of the major polls:

RealClearPolitics Republican Polling Trends July 2008

Giuliani’s first drop came in March upon Thompson’s emergence, losing four points or so while Thompson came in around 10%. Giulini’s numbers varied within a small band the next month while Thompson climbed, seeing another small drop in early May. Yet, interestingly, Giuliani’s numbers then leveled off, not dropping further when Thompson began his current spike in June.

It would seem to be McCain that was hurt by Thompson’s sudden spike into frontrunner status. Then again, McCain’s plunge also coincided with his very public championing of an immigration reform package vehemently despised by most Republicans, so there are multiple factors at work.

Whatever the explanation, the fact that Giuliani’s numbers have been essentially static, varying only within the margin of error, in the combined averages since early May, would seem to indicate that he’s not in free fall. Whether McCain can rebound or Thompson can take the lead remain to be seen. The real question is whether his “9/11 hero” status will continue to inoculate him from positions on social issues that would doom just about any other contender for the Republican nomination.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.