If The Election Were Held Today . . .
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.