Rudy Giuliani Leads Republican Field: CNN Poll

Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani tops the latest CNN poll of Republican presidential contenders.

Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani tops the latest CNN poll of Republican presidential contenders.

Call it a sign of how unsettled the GOP presidential field remains: Two of the three people at the top of new national poll in the battle for the Republican nomination may not even run for the White House. And a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey also suggests that there is not a lot of enthusiasm about any of the major candidates.

According to the poll, which was released Friday, 16 percent of Republicans and independents who lean towards the GOP say they would most likely support Rudy Giuliani as their party’s nominee. One point behind, at 15 percent is Mitt Romney, with Sarah Palin coming in at 13 percent.

Romney, the former Massachusetts governor and 2008 GOP White House hopeful, will officially announce his candidacy for president next Thursday. Neither Palin nor Giuliani have taken concrete steps toward a run.

Palin, the former Alaska governor and 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee, has increasingly sent signals that she is interested in running. On Sunday she kicks off a campaign-style bus tour, but she has not publicly worked toward hiring staff or building an organization in any of the early voting states in the primary and caucus calendar.

Giuliani, who was a candidate in the last presidential cycle, is also considering another bid, but an adviser tells CNN that the former New York City mayor is not taking active steps toward getting in the race other than making recent appearances in New Hampshire, which holds the first primary on the road to the White House.

“Giuliani has the top spot in a 12-candidate field, but he doesn’t generate a lot of enthusiasm. Only about a quarter of Republicans nationwide said that they would be enthusiastic if Giuliani won the nomination,” said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. “But he’s not alone – only a quarter would be enthusiastic if Palin got the party’s nod, and only one in five would feel the same way if Romney became the GOP’s standard bearer in 2012.”

Just one point behind Palin in the survey is Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, who is making his third bid for the presidency. With a sampling error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points, the poll indicates a crowded field at the top of the horse race.

Former Godfather’s Pizza CEO and radio talk show host Herman Cain is at ten percent, with Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich at eight percent, Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota at seven percent and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty at five percent. Everyone else questioned registered at two percent or less.

The survey was conducted May 24 through May 26, after former Arkansas governor and 2008 Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, billionaire businessman, real estate mogul and reality TV star Donald Trump and Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels all announced they would not make presidential bids.

I agree that this is a sign of how little excitement anyone is generating at this early stage of the game rather than an indication that Giuliani is the frontrunner. His best shot at the nomination was 2008, the first open race after 9/11, and he blew it miserably. Granting that the 10th anniversary of those attacks will still be fresh on people’s minds by the time the Iowa Caucuses roll around next February, it’s highly unlikely that the buzz he earned from his handling of the aftermath will carry him very far.

The most amusing factoid in the survey: “NOTE: Fred Karger was incuded on the list but no resopndents chose him.”

More useful, perhaps, is the second choices:

Romney and Giuliani do quite well here, reflecting wide appeal to Republicans Palin and Paul each have a very enthusiastic base of supporters but aren’t many people’s fallback choice. (Although, oddly, Bachmann does quite well here; I’d have expected her to be in the same boat. Perhaps she’s the second choice of Palin supporters?)

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2012, Public Opinion Polls, Quick Takes,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor 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. legion says:

    Wow. The smell of desperation is truly in the air…




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  2. michael reynolds says:

    These kinds of wild swings . . . Trump . . . Giuliani . . . go to the fact that the GOP doesn’t know what it is or what it stands for — aside from hating various minorities and Obama. They’re lost little sheep looking for a shepherd. Or a shearer.

    This is what happens when you let your party be run by TV and radio talking heads. This is what happens when you refuse to be serious. This is what happens when you cling to myths and lies and ancient hatreds and push away anyone who won’t march in lockstep with Rush Limbaugh.

    Maybe this one will save us! No this one! It’s like the scene in Life of Brian where there are competing saviors, all of them bogus.




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  3. James Joyner says:

    @Michael: Nah, it’s just a big field with no real superstars. Gingrich and Giuliani may have qualified at one point but their day is past–and neither had the discipline necessary to get elected president. Palin qualifies now but not in a good way; she’s got a hard core base and repels most others.

    Romney and Pawlenty don’t excite anybody but they’re the likely survivors. Huntsman’s in the same boat but I don’t see how he closes the gap.




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  4. Simon says:

    What I find most interesting about the polls isn’t who comes out on top of any one of them, but which candidates generally lead in almost every poll and which trail. If you wander around online, there’s a wild disconnect, because the people who fancy themselves the base will profess their adoration for candidates who polls find are way behind, and their scorn for the very candidates (chiefly Romney) who lead the polls. So what’s going on? Either democrats are sneakily claiming to be GOP voters on a massive scale to skew the polls, or, it would seem, those who are the loudest among online Republicans may not represent the average GOP voter after all.




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  5. Tano says:

    I gotta say, Cain remains the most impressive performer here. Nate Silver had a good piece on Cain support, showing that if you factor in name-recognition (look at how much support a candidate gets relative to those who recognize him), then Cain comes out on top of the list. Although its easy to over-interpret that, it does seem to indicate that his current performance is very strong, and there is lots of room for growth.

    As it is, even with low recognition, he is outpolling Newt Gingrich, Tim Pawlenty, Jon Huntsman and Michelle Bachmann. Thats pretty impressive for someone widely considered, amongst the chattering classes, to be a totally fringe candidate.




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  6. James Joyner says:

    @Simon and @Tano: There’s a difference between direction and intensity, especially in early polls. My choices, right now, would be Huntsman and then Romney. Considering I think Huntsman isn’t viable, that means Romney is my realistic choice. But, lord knows, if far from enthusiastic about him.

    Palin has a much more enthusiastic following. But she’s almost nobody’s fallback position.

    Cain is this year’s Alan Keyes, 1996 edition. He’s fresh, charismatic, energetic, and knows how to fire up the base. Those are wonderful qualities but not enough to propel you to the nomination without some meat and credibility.




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  7. Simon says:

    Tano, in the last election cycle, we ridiculed a candidate whose only experience was a few years in the U.S. Senate and some light duty work in a state legislature. I can’t imagine why we would now take seriously a candidate with even less experience. It’s nice that he ran a regional pizza chain and that he was on the board of a regional Fed, but those things don’t qualify a person for the Presidency.

    I love the crooked math, too. Why, if you factor out the people who won’t vote for him, he practically leads the pack!




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  8. TG Chicago says:

    It’s fun to watch all these little Fred Thompson-like bubbles in this race. Any predictions about who’s next? Maybe McCain wants to give it another go? Dan Quayle? Ted Nugent?

    Oh, I know: it’s time for the return of David Duke.

    Wait… holy crap. I was kidding!




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  9. Tano says:

    I love the crooked math, too. Why, if you factor out the people who won’t vote for him, he practically leads the pack!

    I don’t think you understand the point here. The analysis did not factor out the people who won’t vote for him, they factor out the people who don’t know anything about him yet. These people will obviously get to know him – that is what a years worth of campaigning is meant to accomplish. And so far, amongst those who do know him, he is preferred at a higher rate than any other candidate.




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  10. michael reynolds says:

    Nah, it’s just a big field with no real superstars.

    If it was 6 months ago, I’d agree. But 8 months out from Iowa, and the party seems to despise the obvious frontrunner? (Romney.) Now Perry may get in?

    Tell me: are you the party of RomneyCare or the party of government-enforced vaginal ultrasounds? Either one works for Dems, but seriously, what is the GOP?




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  11. Simon says:

    James, the problem with either Huntsman or Romney is the question mark hanging over their ability to unite the GOP behind them if they get the nomination, and it’s not clear that either could attract a sufficient number of independents to make up the difference. McCain had a similar problem in 2008, and he solved it by nominating a firebrand conservative; that strategy nearly worked (it unified the base, and while it pushed away some independents, the polls were even until he committed campaign suicide over the financial crisis.




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  12. Tano says:

    I can’t imagine why we would now take seriously a candidate with even less experience.

    What kind of experience do you think is relevant anyway?
    Is running a relatively large corporation, and being the chairman of a regional Fed board somehow less experience than being the mayor of a town of a few thousand, and a half term governor of one of our smallest states?
    Is experience in an elected position absolutely crucial in your mind?




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  13. mantis says:

    Is experience in an elected position absolutely crucial in your mind?

    Not going to speak for anyone, but it seems to me that experience in an elected position at the very least shows that a candidate can win an election. Cain has never done so. Winning the presidency ain’t easy. The last guy to do so without having previously held an elected office was Eisenhower, and he won WWII.




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  14. Tano says:

    Mantis,

    That is a good point relative to what seems to be the historical practice of electing people. But there is a separate question of what our commenters here personally think is important in a candidate. There was, for example, quite a boomlet for Trump. If he had not gone into loony-land with the birther stuff, he might still be a player – someone who also has no elected experience

    I suspect that Republicans, (and Democrats in similar situations) will go with someone who articulates their values and positions and seems “electable” (however that magic arises), and experience, even electoral experience, is a distant consideration. I don’t think it would be too hard for anyone to spin a lack of electoral experience as a virtue – we need a “true outsider”….




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  15. Simon says:

    @Tano, no, command experience in the military is fine, as would be experience in running a large corporation. Nor, on the flipside, is experience in an elected position sufficient: I don’t regard service in the legislature as adequate preparation for an executive position. But Godfathers Pizza is not a large corporation; it employs 2500 people and has an annual turnover of a little over fifty million (http://bit.ly/lnq5pf). By contrast, number 500 in the Fortune 500 (Dai Nippon Printing) employs 39,643 people and turned over $17,153,000,000 last year. Cain ran a company, and that’s nice, but it’s not in the same league as the kind of companies that the managing of will substitute for government executive service. If Cain was running for Governor, his experience would probably suffice. For President? He’s a joke, just as Obambi was a few years ago.

    To my mind, the perfect Presidential resume, in my mind, is a conservative woman in her fifties or sixties, a member in good standing of the Federalist Society and of the Catholic Church, who worked her way through law school while running a small business, saw active duty in the military rising to at least minor command ranks, and ran at least a division-sized subunit of a Fortune top 10 company before serving (in either order) at least one term in Congress and at least one successful term as governor of a state. Now, I doubt very much that anyone could develop such a resume, and if they did, I expect they would have some crippling policy problem that overcame their resume. We’re always going to be making do with imperfect candidates.




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  16. michael reynolds says:

    Someone explain to me why experience running a corporation is relevant to being president?

    Is the president out to turn a profit? Is the president answerable only to a constituency of board members? And on the other side, does a CEO share power with two other branches of government?

    Various types of experience are relevant to different aspects of the job. For example: community organizer. But there is no job like president of the United States, and it’s not reasonable to assume that pizza chain executive is superior to any number of other experiences.




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  17. Tano says:

    He’s a joke, just as Obambi was a few years ago.

    Ya see Simon this is your problem. Your comment comes across as utterly unserious once you start in with nonsense like this.

    Obama’s candidacy may have seemed like a joke to you, but that merely demonstrates how irrelevant your opinion is relative to the political realities of the US. Clearly a majority of your fellow citizens did not consider his candidacy a joke, and, two plus years in, a similar majority approve of his performance.

    So if Cain’s candidacy is as much a joke as Obama’s, then he certainly should be taken very seriously indeed.

    To my mind, the perfect Presidential resume,

    No one really asked for your perfect candidate – that would be a very different discussion, one that examined you and your values. The question here is what the threshold is for a candidate being taken seriously – and I don’t really see how one sets the bar in such a manner that Cain fails, while some of those other GOP candidates succeed.




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  18. mantis says:

    He’s a joke, just as Obambi was a few years ago.

    He’s a joke, but Obama wasn’t and isn’t. One way to tell the difference? Obama is president. Cain will never be.




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  19. TG Chicago says:

    @Simon:

    McCain had a similar problem in 2008, and he solved it by nominating a firebrand conservative; that strategy nearly worked (it unified the base, and while it pushed away some independents, the polls were even until he committed campaign suicide over the financial crisis.

    I’m not sure the timeline bears this out. McCain suspended his campaign on September 24. That was also the day the the first of the Palin/Couric interview segments aired. I’m not sure how you can definitively say that the ticket’s problems after that were all related to the financial crisis and not Palin’s awful performance.




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  20. Simon says:

    Tano, Obama was a joke of a candidate, and since being elected, has been a joke of a President. May be a bad joke, but c’est la vie. As you say, the threshold for a candidate being taken seriously is the issue, and neither Obama nor Cain come close. Nor is it much of a criticism for you to point out (I take this to be your point, anyway) that by applying the same standard, other GOP candidates also fail. That’s true; what of it? Vanity candidates like Cain, Santorum, Bachman, and Gingrich—and to underscore the point that it’s no judgment on them personally, I’ll note that I count Gingrich under this head despite personally liking him—are simply a distraction; their presence in the race wastes money, promotes the formation of tribal grudges between their soon to be embittered supporters, and increases the chances for the system to produce an unexpected result that pleases only a very few à la 2008. Last time around, I really believed that a wide primary field was a boon; it wasn’t, it was a catastrophe, and I yield to the lessons of experience. The only serious contenders in this race—I pass no judgment at this point on whether they ought to be the nominee, and I decline to pretend that we don’t know two of them are running—are Pawlenty, Palin, Romney, Huntsman, and Perry.




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  21. Simon says:

    @TG That’s a good point, but it may have less force when I admit that—typing in a hurry—my previous comment truncated my point. (The unclosed parenthesis is the giveaway.) What I was trying to say was that McCain solved the problem of unifying the party by choosing a base-pleasing veep, and it didn’t work out. It’s tough to say precisely why it didn’t work out, for the reason you just mentioned, but the point I wanted to make was that the experience of 2008 throws cold water on the idea that Huntsman or Romney could solve their base problem and prevail simply by nominating, say, Bachmann as their veep.




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  22. Tano says:

    As you say, the threshold for a candidate being taken seriously is the issue, and neither Obama nor Cain come close.

    Actually, what I say is that to call a candidacy a joke when it results in a successful election is simply absurd. You are more intent on flinging insults than making any sense.

    (it unified the base, and while it pushed away some independents, the polls were even until he committed campaign suicide over the financial crisis.

    McCain was behind throughout the summer. He got a convention bounce because of the excitement generated by the Palin pick. Such bounces usually dissipate. In this case, the dissipation correlated precisely with the plummeting approval ratings of Palin herself, which went from very high to very low, based on her performance in the interviews. McCain’s reaction to the financial crisis was just icing on a very well baked cake.




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  23. michael reynolds says:

    Simon thinks Palin is serious and Obama’s a joke.

    So much for Simon.




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  24. Tsar Nicholas says:

    CNN is still broadcasting??




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  25. An Interested Party says:

    The laugh factor is high enough when someone compares the Palin to the president, but to argue that she is on a higher level than he is? That’s Onion material…

    As you say, the threshold for a candidate being taken seriously is the issue, and neither Obama nor Cain come close.

    I guess over 69 million people were in a joking mood…




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  26. anjin-san says:

    @Michael: Nah, it’s just a big field with no real superstars

    Really? Could you explain to us just what it is the GOP is about?




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