If The Election Were Held Today . . .

CNN Poll A new CNN poll shows that Mike Huckabee would “lose to all three leading Democratic candidates by double digits” if he got the Republican nomination and the election were held today (or, actually, a couple of days ago).

In head-to-head matchups — the first to include Huckabee — the former Arkansas governor loses to Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York by 10 percentage points (54 percent to 44 percent), to Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois by 15 points (55 percent to 40 percent) and to former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina by 25 points (60 percent to 35 percent).

The poll comes on the heels of a CNN/Opinion Research poll released Monday that showed Huckabee doubled his support nationally among likely Republican voters in the last month and is in a statistical dead heat with former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

Shocking, right? Well, not so much. It’s just that not many people are paying attention to Huckabee just yet: “the Arkansas Republican still lacks widespread name recognition nationally, according to Keating Holland, CNN’s polling director. Americans tend not to support candidates they’re not familiar with, and it’s possible Huckabee’s numbers are low in these hypothetical matchups because he is still not very well known nationally,” Holland said.”

Ya think? And I bet you didn’t know that people tend not to support candidates they’re not familiar with! (Except, oddly, in the case of Fred Thompson. But people seem to be over that now.)

Also very interesting: The candidates who are viewed most favorably by the general public are not the ones who appear headed for nomination.

The poll also shows that Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona would do best against leading Democrats. He beats Clinton by 2 percentage points (50 percent to 48 percent), ties Obama (48 percent to 48 percent) and loses to Edwards by a smaller margin (8 points) than the other Republican candidates do. In addition to Huckabee, Giuliani and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney lose to all three top Democrats in the survey.

On the Democratic side, Edwards performs best against each of the leading Republicans. In addition to beating Huckabee by 25 percent and McCain by 8 percent, the North Carolina Democrat beats Romney by 22 percentage points (59 percent to 37 percent).

While the survey shows McCain and Edwards performing best in their respective fields, both candidates continue to significantly trail their parties’ front-runners significantly. In the national horse race numbers released Monday, McCain trails Giuliani by 11 percentage points, and Edwards is behind Clinton by 26 percentage points.

“Edwards is the only Democrat who beats all four Republicans, and McCain is the only Republican who beats any of the three Democrats,” Holland said. “Some might argue this shows that they are the most electable candidates in their respective parties.

Of course, that’s generally the case. The nomination process is dominated by activist, ideological partisans who are looking for the candidates most like them. The general election is about motivating the base to show up and vote while simultaneously appealing to people in the middle. Those two agendas are at odds with one another.

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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.

Comments

  1. lisa says:

    The two fields ARE completely different (as you suggest in your last paragraph). Especially in the mud-slinging arena as the general election is usually plagued by much more malicious campaigning.
    Expect 2008 to be especially dirty as candidates dig up digital dirt on their opponents.

  2. yetanotherjohn says:

    2004, 2006 and 2008 were all elections that in their way favored the democrats. In 2004 the democrats managed to find a way to lose. In 2006 the democrats collected on the odds and won. In 2008, like 2004, a “generic” democrat is likely to beat a “generic” republican. But when you start applying names you get a different sense.

    Just as last months primary polls aren’t looking so hot now, I wouldn’t put much faith in a poll about an election 11 months away.

    All that being said, if Huckabee comes up from the outside of the field to win the nomination, one of his biggest issues is going to be putting together a national campaign staff. Of course, there will likely be some surplus people from the other campaigns.

  3. Wayne says:

    One thing about Huckabee is he is perceived as a Washington outsider. The last election was about change and I think the next one will be as well. He also has that underdog turn contender deal that could help him. He also comes across very well to people. Is there a skeleton in his closet that could sink him? Perhaps. However, I think people have wizen up on attack techniques and they are less effective nowadays. It should be interesting.

  4. Dave Schuler says:

    The poll is of “adult Americans”. Not likely voters. Not registered voters. Not eligible voters. Not even American citizens. It’s meaningless.

    That having been said I agree that Huckabee is not a particularly attractive candidate for the general election although he no doubt looks pretty good to the 40% of Republicans who characterize themselves as evangelical Christians.

    If Huckabee continues to gain steam and actually wins in Iowa, I expect the regular Republican leadership to begin to consolidate behind one of the “first tier” candidates e.g. Giuliani, Romney, or McCain. I continue to think that McCain is the Republicans’ best candidate but Romney is probably most attractive to the regular Republican leadership.

  5. Eneils Bailey says:

    “Edwards is the only Democrat who beats all four Republicans, and McCain is the only Republican who beats any of the three Democrats,”

    I predict neither will be their party’s nominee. Just goes to show how unfounded and unreliable these early polls are for the eventual outcome.

    It is kinda like asking sport’s writers who will win the Super Bowl in the previous August. My friend predicted Miami and Saint Louis.

    “The nomination process is dominated by activist, ideological partisans who are looking for the candidates most like them.”
    That ‘splains a lot about the process and the people involved and devoted to their commitments and ideologies. Iowa and New Hampshire, coupled with the results of the SC primary has not always given to us a clear indication as to who will be the eventual nominees.

  6. Wayne says:

    I’m not an evangelical Christians but Huckabee is looking better and better to me. Like any candidate, I don’t agree with all his policies or all he has done in the past. However he seems honest compare to most and is willing at least to give straight forward answers. Fred and Rudy come in second in that regard. Mitt strikes me a slick use car salesman who taps dances around many questions. I thought once Huck got into top tier he would do the same but hasn’t so far.

  7. John425 says:

    I’ve been a “conservative” since I was old enough to vote (Goldwater-1964). I won’t vote for Huckabee precisely because he is a minister. That comes too close to an “establishment of religion” for me. Same for Romney because he was/is a bishop in the LDS. Would you elect a Catholic priest as President?

  8. Patrick T. McGuire says:

    However he seems honest compare to most and is willing at least to give straight forward answers.

    Oh, he gives straight forward answers, only they aren’t entirely correct or adequate. You have to pay close attention to what he says, or in some cases, doesn’t say, to understand the man.

    Chris Wallace asked him a question about his 1992 position on AIDS and whether he still thought that homosexuality was still as sin. He quickly convered the part about AIDS, saying that he wouldn’t run away from his previous position but never did say anything about homosexuality. Yet he did it so well that most everybody probably missed it.

    If the Huck were to get the Republican nomination, he will end up like Al Gore – not able to carry his own state in an election. Hell, back here in Arkansas, that man couldn’t get elected dog catcher.

  9. Patrick T. McGuire says:

    However he seems honest compare to most and is willing at least to give straight forward answers.

    Oh, he gives straight forward answers, only they aren’t entirely correct or adequate. You have to pay close attention to what he says, or in some cases, doesn’t say, to understand the man.

    Chris Wallace asked him a question about his 1992 position on AIDS and whether he still thought that homosexuality was still as sin. He quickly convered the part about AIDS, saying that he wouldn’t run away from his previous position but never did say anything about homosexuality. Yet he did it so well that most everybody probably missed it.

    If the Huck were to get the Republican nomination, he will end up like Al Gore – not able to carry his own state in an election. Back here in Arkansas, that man couldn’t get elected dog catcher.

  10. floyd says:

    McGuire;
    Your redundant remarks sound precisely like those spoken of Bill Clinton,And he went on to two terms as president.
    Remember the thousands of bumper stickers all over Arkansas that said…….

    “VOTE FOR CLINTON we need a new governor”

  11. Steve says:

    I’ve been a “conservative” since I was old enough to vote (Goldwater-1964). I won’t vote for Huckabee precisely because he is a minister. That comes too close to an “establishment of religion” for me. Same for Romney because he was/is a bishop in the LDS. Would you elect a Catholic priest as President?

    425,
    Your logic escapes me. The 1st amendment prohibits government from establishing a national religion such as The Church of England. How are you thinking Huck will establish a national religion? Jefferson stated, “thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.” Taking this statement in context he was stating the amendment “as putting a wall around the church, protecting it from the state, and in no way limits religion being involved in the state.” Wikipedia

    I am a Sunday School teacher and the Board Chairman of my church. In your logic, would you not vote for me for president?

    BTW, I’d make a great president.
    1. I’m both socially and fiscally conservative
    2. I’m from Outside the Beltway
    3. I have an MBA in Technology Management
    4. I’m not a lawyer
    5. I’m neither a Bush nor a Clinton
    6. I don’t even know a lobbyist
    7. I served in the Army as an X-Ray tech in Albuquerque, NM
    8. I’ve never made a public statement that will come back to haunt me
    My only problem is name recognition. My wife and I both sang in the same church when we met. When my now Father-in-Law announced to the church choir that his daughter was engaged to Steve. Most of the choir said, “Steve who?”

  12. bains says:

    Early polling. I suppose your analysis is plausible James. I an rather suspect however of a poll that puts the least likely primary contenders winning over all others in the general. I admit prejudice, but the absolute worst possible general election choice I could face is Huckabee vs Edwards. I could pull a GOP lever for anyone (discarding the nearly impossible Richardson) except Huckabee – that’s right, even Ron Paul. I would pull the Dem lever if it is Huckabee… unless his opponent is Edwards (or Gore).

    If I want a pro-life liberal as President, I’d prefer him/her to be from the party that I can outright oppose rather than from the party that supposedly represents me.

  13. NoZe says:

    I’m surprised that Edwards does better in the match-ups than Clinton and Obama, given that thus far he only appears to be competitive in Iowa.

    As I understand it, being a Mormon Bishop isn’t a full-time job…its more like being a deacon than it is a priest.

    >”VOTE FOR CLINTON we need a new governor”

    No doubt there was plenty of animosity toward Clinton, but as an Arkansan for over 27 years I can honestly say I never saw that bumper sticker!

  14. spencer says:

    The funny thing about these poll results is that Edwards is easily much more a leftist radical promising to spend bigger then either Clinton or Obama, yet he does better in head to head races with republicans.

    this doe not compute.

  15. James Joyner says:

    The funny thing about these poll results is that Edwards is easily much more a leftist radical promising to spend bigger then either Clinton or Obama, yet he does better in head to head races with republicans.

    Most people aren’t paying much attention and likely have little clue on the ideologies of any of the candidates save perhaps Hillary. The polls at this stage likely reflect personality as much as anything.

  16. John425 says:

    RE: Steve’s response to me…Quite funny! But- your credentials don’t mention you being an ordained minister- that’s where I would draw the line. Other than that- I could vote for you but I am a bit skeptical about your reason #8